On the back of David Ferrer's return for the Heineken Open, ASB Classic champion Zheng Jie will be coming back to defend her title this summer.
The world No26, a surprise winner in the last final, will make her second appearance in Auckland. While she might not be a huge drawcard, Zheng's signature is somewhat of a coup for tournament director Karl Budge, given the competition from the new $615,000 tournament in Zheng's home country.
"There were some concerns in tennis circles that the [Shenzhen tournament] would have an impact on our ASB Classic field but Zheng's return lessens any worries those people may have had," says Budge. "The top players know that playing in New Zealand and Australia is the ideal preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year - the Australian Open."
Zheng's victory in Auckland was her fourth tour title and she went on to the fourth round at the Australian Open.
Along with Li Na, Zheng has been a trailblazer for Chinese tennis. Zheng was the first Chinese player to reach the second week at a Grand Slam (2004 French Open) and closely followed Li in 2005 in winning a WTA tour title. She also reached the last four at Wimbledon (2008), repeating the feat at the 2010 Australian Open. Zheng, also has 14 WTA doubles titles, including two Grand Slams.
Back in January, Zheng knocked over three of the top seeds - Monica Niculescu, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta - to claim the title.
With the full field to be revealed this Wednesday, the ASB Classic can already count on five players in the top 30 - Poland's Radwanska (4), Germany's Julia Goerges (18), 2010 champion Yanina Wickmayer (23), Zheng and Romania's Sorana Cirstea (27).By Michael Burgess Email Michael