Veterans headline day one of ASB Classic

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2012
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Getty Images
ON COURT: Two-time Grand Slam winner and current world No 71 Svetlana Kuznetsova will be in action on day one of the ASB Classic.

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With the ASB Classic's big guns not taking to the court until tomorrow for singles at this Auckland WTA tournament, this could be branded as Veterans Day, or if you wanted to be cruel, the 'Has Beens' Classic.

Top seeds Agnieszka Radwanska and Julia Goerges as well as Marina Erakovic all have another day to prepare for their singles matches.

So it is left to four former champions to entertain the crowds today.

Greta Arn, Yanina Wickmayer, Eleni Daniilidou and Zheng Jie are all playing, although realistically it is tough to see how any of them would be able to stop world No 4 Radwanska winning this tournament if she packed her A-game with her on the trip down from Poland.

On centre court today Belgian Wickmayer, the tournament's third seed, plays Magdalena Rybarikova from Slovakia, Hungarian Greta Arn plays Nudnika Luangnam from Thailand in the last round of qualifying and at night China's Zheng Jie takes on Jamie Hampton from the USA.

Also in action is Svetlana Kuznetsova. She may have won two Grand Slams in the past, but the last one was at Roland Garros in 2009 and she is now languishing at 71 in the world after a disappointing 2012 where she struggled with injuries and form.

Today she comes up against the promising Kiki Bertens from the Netherlands who rose from 184 to 63 over the past year.

Bertens is an aggressive baseliner who can give the ball a big whack, so similar to Kuznetsova then.

The last match of the day is guaranteed to be a New Zealand victory with Marina Erakovic and her British partner Heather Watson, going up against the young Kiwis Paige Hourigan and Claudia Williams.

It has become the norm for Erakovic to play doubles on the Monday and singles the following day at the Classic.

It is her eighth appearance at this tournament, but she hasn't won a singles match here since 2009.

The pressure and expectation on her at the Classic is different to how it is for her at every other tournament and even now she admits to feeling the nerves when she plays here.

"As the tournament approaches I get more nervous," Erakovic said yesterday.

"I want to do well but I guess this is something that I've got used to. New Year's Eve I usually spend watching TV with my Nana and then I go to bed, that's just become the normal routine and I enjoy that.

"I don't watch the news or read the papers at this time of the year, I try to look at it as another tournament. My coach [Christian Zahalka] is here and we prepare the same way every time.

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"Obviously I can't make it like another tournament because it is home and everyone wants me to do well.

"The nerves get going but once I step out onto the court and after the first few games it's alright, they disappear.

"I know that's going to happen and I focus on what I've got to do in the match."

All the nerves should be on the opposite side of the court tonight though as this will be the first time New Zealand's two big hopes get a taste of what it's like to play in a packed stadium and be live on TV.

Both players look up to what Erakovic has achieved and Hourigan got to have a practice with the New Zealand No 1 a few days ago.

"When I was hitting with her I was thinking what should I say?" Erakovic said.

"At the end of the day she's 15, she's got people around her that are doing a good job and all I could say was to really enjoy the moment, have fun and try to do your best.

"It will be a good match and it will also be good for these girls to be out on centre court and see a few people around."

Meanwhile, Radwanska's original opponent Kristina Mladenovic has been forced to pull out with a wrist injury, meaning that the top seed will play someone from the qualifying tournament in the first round tomorrow.

Order of play

Play starts at 10am on all courts

Centre court

Greta Arn (HUN) v Nudnida Luangnam (THA)
[WC] Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) v Elena Vesnina (RUS)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Kiki Bertens (NED)
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) v Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) [3]
Zheng Jie (CHN) [4] v Jamie Hampton (USA)
Paige Hourigan (NZL)/Claudia Williams (NZL) v Marina Erakovic (NZL)/Heather Watson (GBR)

Court 2

Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) v Luksika Kumkhum (THA)
Grace Min (USA) v Maryna Zanevska (UKR)
Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL)
Simona Halep (ROU) v Arantxa Rus (NED)

Court 4

Julie Coin (FRA) v Stephanie Dubois (CAN)
Christina McHale (USA) [7] v Pauline Parmentier (FRA)
[WC] Eleni Daniilidou (GRE) v [WC] Coco Vandeweghe (USA)
Johanna Larsson (SWE) v Misaki Doi (JPN)

- Fairfax Media

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