Ana Ivanovic makes low key arrival in Auckland

DAVID LONG
Last updated 17:39 26/12/2013
Ana Ivanovic
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
STAR ATTRACTION: Ana Ivanovic arrives at Auckland Airport.

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Ana Ivanovic may be one of the most famous women in sport, but she made a decidedly low key arrival at Auckland Airport today. 

Just a handful of children and their parents were there to greet her as she made her way through the arrivals gate, while her outfit of a grey top and jeans hardly made her stand out.

She is the poster girl for next weekend's WTA tennis tournament in Auckland along with Venus Williams, who arrives in the country tomorrow.

After signing a few giant tennis balls for autograph hunters Ivanovic made her way out to a waiting car and was whisked off into the city.

Before doing so, she told Fairfax Media that she'd been looking forward to her first visit to New Zealand.

"I am very excited to be here," Ivanovic said. 

"It is my first time here and I'm really looking forward to seeing the city and also looking forward to the tournament.

"My relatives have been here before and they told me it was really beautiful. Sorana [Cirstea] is my friend and she's played the tournament before."

Ivanovic is the No 2 seed at the Classic and has a world ranking of 16. Italy's Roberta Vinci is the top seed at 14, but doesn't have anywhere near the pulling power of some of the others at the tournament.

Serbian, Ivanovic only had to make the short trip from Melbourne for this tournament. She chose to base herself in the city that will host the Australian Open in a few weeks and do her preparation for the new season there.

"My build up has been very good," she said. 

"I had a good time in Melbourne. I spent about 10 days there training and I'm really looking forward to this. 

"It's always good to get started in the first tournament of the year, play a few matches and try to feel the courts and the game a little bit."

Before heading to Melbourne, Ivanovic played against Maria Sharapova in an exhibition match in Bogota, Colombia and picked up a good 6-1 1-6 12-10 win over the Russian.

The result may not count for anything, but it did demonstrate that Ivanovic is in good form.

"It was in early December and a lot has changed since then," Ivanovic said. 

"But I'm definitely playing good tennis and enjoying my time on court, so I'm looking forward to this competition."

Meanwhile, it was announced today that Ana Konjuh, who turns 16 tomorrow, has been given a main draw wildcard. The Croatian won the junior tournaments at the Australian and US Open this year and is regarded as the hottest young talent in tennis.

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A wildcard has already been given to the Czech Republic's Andrea Hlavackova and there is one more for tournament director, Karl Budge to hand out if a top 20 player doesn't ask for it by tomorrow.

If there isn't anyone who comes knocking - and usually there isn't - that wildcard will likely be given to Johanna Larsson, the Swede who made it to the quarterfinals earlier this year.

Larsson is the next player on the list to make it into the main draw off her own ranking, which is 84, so with no big name player available, she'll be given it out of courtesy.

For the qualifying wildcards, Sacha Jones earned one for winning last week's New Zealand championships, while 16-year-old Kiwi Paige Hourigan and New Zealand No 3 Emma Hayman are likely to also get one.

France's Aravane Rezai, who has spent most of 2013 out injured and hasn't won a match since May, is likely to get the final qualifying wildcard. She is ranked 525, but has become a popular figure in Auckland by making it to the final of this tournament in 2008 and reaching the semis a year later.

- Fairfax Media

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