Tennis: Ivanovic lured to ASB Classic

By Michael Brown

ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge is a big fan of Ana Ivanovic but there's probably a part of him that wouldn't mind if she lost a few matches in the coming weeks.

Ivanovic was today unveiled as the headline act for the country's premier women's tournament. The 25-year-old is a former world No 1 and owner of 11 titles, including the 2008 French Open, and is among the world's top-10 highest paid female athletes.

Her present ranking of 14, however, is causing some agitation.

The ASB Classic is allowed only one top-10 player and Budge has already secured a player ranked between six and 10. Something would have to give if Ivanovic also sneaked into the top 10 and it's an outside possibility with this week's China Open and the season-ending Tournament of Champions.

It happened last year, when Caroline Wozniacki climbed inside the world's top 10 at the last tournament of the year and couldn't play in Auckland because Agnieszka Radwanska had already been signed.

"We will have to weigh things up if it happened,'' Budge said. ``If Ana sneaks into the top 10, then hopefully one of the other top 10s we are speaking to falls out and we don't have an issue.

"If that player doesn't, we will look at withdrawing our offer for the other player and look at having a chat to one of the unlucky ones who fell out of the top 10. But I think it's unlikely both of the players we are in discussion with will finish top 10.''

Ivanovic has been a long-time target of the ASB Classic and negotiations got close last year. The Serbian is aggressive on court and well known off it and has previously dated Spanish tennis player Fernando Verdasco and Australian golfer Adam Scott.

"I haven't been to New Zealand yet and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to play there,'' she said. "I have heard many nice things about the event. A good friend of mine [Sorana Cirstea] has been telling me how good it is and I wanted to check it out myself.

"[I am an aggressive player so people can expect] more of that. I am also a very emotional player and I show my emotions on court - not in a way of breaking rackets, more in excitement when I win points or hit a good shot.''

Ivanovic will be joined in Auckland by rising talent Laura Robson. The 19-year-old is the highest ranked teenager in women's tennis at 41 but peaked at 27 earlier this year and was the first Briton to reach a WTA final in 22 years.

She also won silver at last year's London Olympics with Andy Murray in the mixed doubles and beat both Kim Clijsters and Li Na at last year's US Open.

- APNZ

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