Tennis: Erakovic could face top seed in second round

Aucklander Marina Erakovic loves playing at home.
Aucklander Marina Erakovic loves playing at home.

Local hope Marina Erakovic has avoided the big names in the draw for the ASB Classic - for one round, at least - while Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic were placed on opposite sides of the draw and can meet only in the final.

Erakovic, the ninth-ranked player and one spot outside the seeds, was picked to play American Lauren Davis in the first round of the tournament, an opponent the Kiwi will be confident of overcoming.

But, if she does, Erakovic will immediately find herself facing top seed Roberta Vinci - provided the Italian emerges from an intriguing first-round match against rising star Ana Konjuh.

That clash between the world's 14th-ranked player and the 16-year-old Croat is probably the pick of the opening encounters, with Williams and Ivanovic both avoiding the big names.

While Ivanovic, seeded second, was assured of a relatively smooth passage, the unseeded Williams could have come up against any of the top guns.

But the draw, conducted yesterday at the Auckland Museum, paired Ivanovic with world No.57 Alison Riske while Williams will play wildcard Andrea Hlavackova.

The news wasn't quite so pleasing for Erakovic.

The Aucklander hasn't advanced past the second round at her home tournament since 2008 (when she reached the semifinal) and, with Vinci looming, the odds are slim of her snapping that streak.

The 25-year-old is coming off a fine year on the WTA circuit, winning her maiden singles title in Memphis and rising to No.46 in the world rankings. Spurred on by a crowd containing friends and family, she will be hopeful of advancing past the 70th-ranked Davis.

But if she is bundled out early, Erakovic won't let the setback spoil her preparations for a new year: "It's not very important," she said before the draw. "It's just another tournament on the calendar. The first one's always tough because you haven't played for a while. If I do well here, great, but if I don't it doesn't really ruin my year."

Such an attitude will be of benefit if she does come face-to-face with the tournament's top seed. It was inevitable Erakovic would encounter a big name sooner rather than later but she was not concerned.

"I've got to be honest; I haven't even looked at the field," she said. "I've seen a lot of the girls around and said, 'hey, how are you?', but I've never thought like that.

"Everyone can play and you go out there expecting a tough match. Everyone's training hard, everyone's working on their game. We're at a certain level where, no matter who you get, it's going to be good tennis."

That was guaranteed when organisers secured 11 of the top 50 players, providing another reason for Erakovic to relish playing at home.

"I love playing at this tournament. I have such fond memories here ... it's a special feeling."

- APNZ

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