Tennis: Arn faces tough start to defend title

2011 ASB Classic champion Greta Arn. Photo / Doug Sherring
2011 ASB Classic champion Greta Arn. Photo / Doug Sherring

Greta Arn faces a difficult start to the defence of her ASB Classic tennis title but it's exactly what she faced this year when she confounded all predictions to win.

The 31-year-old Hungarian plays German Julia Goerges, the tournament fifth seed and world No 21, in the first round and is pitched in the same section of the draw as US Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber of Germany, Kiwi No 1 Marina Erakovic and tournament top seed Sabine Lisicki.

Arn, who is presently ranked 63 in the world, made a mockery of the rankings 12 months ago when she beat Sofia Arvidsson (eighth seed), Maria Sharapova (1) and Goerges (4) before upsetting the second seed and defending champion Yanina Wickmayer 6-3 6-3 in the final.

Erakovic also has a tough first-round opponent in Kerber who, at 32 in the world, narrowly missed out on a seeded position. The top eight seeds for the ASB Classic are ranked between 15 and 30 in the world.

Erakovic will take considerable confidence into the tournament, having jumped from a lowly ranking of 324 at the end of 2010 to be the world's 61st-ranked player. She had a wretched 18 months with injuries but came back strongly in 2011 and played in her first WTA final at Quebec City.

Sacha Jones, who will controversially play as an Australian in 2012, avoided one of the heavyweights and takes on Britain's Elena Baltacha in the first round.

The draw was also kind for the tournament's second and third seeds Peng Shuai and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who will both take on qualifiers, as will 2010 champion and last year's runner-up Wickmayer.

One significant name was missing from the draw today after seven-time grand slam singles winner Venus Williams, who had been granted a wildcard as she makes her way back from illness, withdrew last week because of ongoing problems with her health.

Action gets under way on Monday but qualifying was today forced indoors due to the poor weather in Auckland.

- APNZ

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