Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Tennis: Rankings cost NZ a shot at Wozniacki

Auckland tournament allowed only one player in world top 10 and Radwanska already signed

Ali Williams has struggled to recapture his old form. Photo / Richard Robinson
Ali Williams has struggled to recapture his old form. Photo / Richard Robinson

A twist of tennis-rankings fate could have cost New Zealand the chance of hosting one of sport's glamour couples.

The Herald understands former world No1 Caroline Wozniacki was in line to play at the ASB Classic in the New Year and would have been accompanied by partner, Irish golfing superstar Rory McIlroy.

But the Dane is set to just sneak inside the top 10 in the season-ending rankings, ruling her out of the Auckland tournament.

Under WTA rules international level events can sign only one top 10 player.

As ASB Classic organisers have already announced world No4 Agnes Radwanska as their headline act, there is no room for Wozniacki.

ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge confirmed he had been in discussions with Wozniacki, who played at the Auckland event in 2009, but said with the way the rankings sit the chances of getting her are now unlikely.

"We've already got Radwanska and we're only allowed one top 10 player, so at the moment we currently cannot touch (Wozniacki)," said Budge.

Wozniacki, ranked 11th in the world, needs only to take the court in the season-ending Tournament of Champions event in Sofia, Bulgaria, next week to improve her ranking.

The tournament is a different format from regular events, featuring round-robin play rather than straight knock-out rounds. Wozniacki, who is only 55 points behind Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, will pick up points for every match she plays, while Bartoli has no other tournaments remaining this season.

"Unless something drastic happens she will go past Bartoli," said Budge, who is hopeful of adding a couple of more names to the ASB draw in the next couple of weeks.

The 2013 event will be Budge's first in his new role, after succeeding long-time tournament director Richard Palmer.

With the ASB Classic having to compete with some of the big money events in Australia for the top names in the sport, Budge said he had found it a challenge to attract players to the Auckland tournament.

"It's been a challenge, with Brisbane offering a million bucks it's definitely very tough and I don't think anyone envisaged how tough it would be trying to compete with them," he said.

"In previous years we've had to pay maybe one or two players, now with anyone inside the top 40 you have to throw money at them to get them."

Budge, who is also director of the Heineken Open, said he is close to announcing a couple of key signings in the men's tournament.

The ASB Classic runs from December 31 until January 5, with the Heineken Open the following week.

- NZ Herald

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