Tennis: Venus, Marina take centre stage

By Kris Shannon

The singles draw has been unkind for Kiwi tennis ace Marina Erakovic. Photo / Dean Purcell
The singles draw has been unkind for Kiwi tennis ace Marina Erakovic. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Venus Williams show will hit centre court at the ASB Classic tennis tournament today while Kiwi eyes will be on an evening doubles clash.

The elder Williams sister begins her tournament against wildcard Andrea Hlavackova, of the Czech Republic, as part of an intriguing evening session on the opening day.

After the singles clash, in which Williams will be expected to take care of business against the 134th-ranked Hlavackova, Marina Erakovic will kick-start her campaign against two Kiwis in the doubles.

The singles draw has been unkind to the New Zealand No1, leaving the doubles as potentially her best hope for making a deep run at home.

If Erakovic does manage to advance from a potentially tricky tie against the 70th-ranked Lauren Davis, of the United States, tomorrow, Erakovic is likely to face top seed and world No14 Roberta Vinci in the second round.

The 25-year-old should enjoy more luck in the doubles. Her combination with Zimbabwe's Cara Black is seeded second behind the Czech pair Hlavackova and Lucie Safarova.

Erakovic and Black formed a successful combination for much of 2013, finishing runner-up in three WTA finals. They also reached the quarter-finals of the French Open and the round of 16 at the US Open. They should have too much quality for Sacha Jones and Abigail Guthrie, giving Erakovic a chance to repeat her run to the 2011 final with Sofia Arvidsson and repay the faith shown by the home fans.

"I've probably never had as much support as I have had here," she said. "It's a special feeling - every match I've played I've felt the crowd behind me and I feel very lucky to have that.

"I am sort of [New Zealand's] only tennis player now and, of course, I'd like to do well and there is pressure. But I deal with it the best I can and I try to go out and play my best. That's all I can do."

Her status as the sole Kiwi representative on the world stage was born out of Jones' decision to switch her allegiance to Australia two years ago, frustrated by a lack of funding and finding more support across the Tasman courtesy of an Australian-born father. Struggling with a body ravaged by injury, Jones is planning to take an indefinite break from tennis to pursue a career in teaching after the tournament. And, after being bundled out in qualifying for the singles, tonight's match against Erakovic and Black could be the last in her career.

ORDER OF PLAY - DAY 1
CENTRE COURT start 10:00 am
Qualifying - A Kontaveit (EST) vs I Falconi (USA)

Not Before 12:00 noon
C Mchale (USA) vs G Muguruza (ESP)
[WC] T Paszek (AUT) vs [5] J Hampton (USA)
I Falconi (USA) / E Hrdinova (CZE) vs [WC] K Flipkens (BEL) / A Ivanovic (SRB)

Not Before 6:30 pm
[WC] A Hlavackova (CZE) vs V Williams (USA)
[WC] A Guthrie (NZL) / S Jones (AUS) vs [2] C Black (ZIM) / M Erakovic (NZL)

COURT 4 start 10:00 am
Qualifying - S Fichman (CAN) vs R Hogenkamp (NED)

Not Before 12:00 noon
Y Meusburger (AUT) vs [7] M Barthel (GER)
K Pliskova (CZE) vs P Ormaechea (ARG)
K Barrois (GER) / R Voracova (CZE) vs C Chan (TPE) / Y Xu (CHN)

Not Before 4:00 pm
A Cadantu (ROU) vs K Nara (JPN)

COURT 2 start 10:00 am
Qualifying - C Vandeweghe (USA) vs K Pliskova (CZE)

Not Before 11:00 am
Qualifying - S Ishizu (JPN) vs P Kania (POL) or G Min (USA)
J Larsson (SWE) vs L Dominguez Lino (ESP)

- APNZ

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