Entries for the next months New Zealand Tennis Championships have been confirmed and the tournament is arguably the strongest for years and most certainly one of the largest entries. The mens singles highlights the lack top world ranked singles players but is offset by world class doubles exponents and the depth competitors.

The Pascoes NZ Tennis Champs is held 12-17 December with early rounds at the Albany Tennis Park before moving for the semis and finals to the ASB Tennis Arena 16-17 December. The mens singles and doubles winners receive the much sought after and lucrative main draw wildcards into the ASB Classic in January.

Defending champion and doubles world No.32 Michael Venus will return. He had the amazing record of four ATP doubles titles and five finals this year and in singes put up a big performance against top 20 ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire in the 2016 ASB Classic.

Marcus Daniell the top 50 ranked doubles player from Wairarapa and Ben McLachlan (Queenstown) who is now in the top 200 ranked doubles players are in the tournament after being absent 12 months ago and add extra depth to the tournament.

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Its rare for Daniell to spend much time at home and although hes enjoying being in New Zealand he says theres plenty of training going on.

Listen: Marcus Daniell on the New Zealand Tennis Championships

"Im looking forward to playing in the tournament. Its great to be back in the country and to be around friends and family but It doesnt mean the work finishes, although if Im training in New Zealand it always feel a little bit better. Its a credit to the tournament organisors and to the whole Festival of Tennis and to have Karl Budge (ASB Classic tournament director) putting the ASB Classic wildcard up for the winner. Youve got some dangerous younger guys and some of us older guys who dont necessarily play singles but compete with some of the best players. It will be interesting to see those two different approaches."

Artem Sitak the other top 100 ranked doubles player and singles finalist last year returns as does Finn Tearney (Wellington) who is ranked 482 and is New Zealands top ranked singles player.

Also giving the tournament a strong field is Kiwi-born Brit Rhett Purcell at who has an ATP ranking plus former pro and Davis Cup team member and now coach Sebastian Lavie and newly internationally ranked Olly Sadler from Wellington. Top juniors Ajeet Rai from Taranaki, Finn Reynolds (Hawkes Bay) and Macsem Sisam (Auckland) are confirmed as well.

Former pros Marvin Barker and Wesley Whitehouse have confirmed their appearances in the very strong mens doubles draw.

The womens draw looks likely to be headed by New Zealand-born Canadian Erin Routliffe . The 21-year-old North American stands 1.88m and was born in New Zealand while her parents sailed around the world. She attends the University of Alabama and has a current WTA ranking of 657 and was previously top 20 in the world in juniors.

Jade Lewis will return from her home in North Carolina to play the event while Paige Hourigan (Wanganui) and Leela Beattie should be seeds along with former pro Sacha Jones. The winner of the womens singles will be awarded a singles wildcard to the ASB Classic womens qualifying.

Defending champion Rosie Cheng will play only the doubles as a result of exams preventing her from playing in the singles draw.

Prizemoney for the tournament has been increased to $7,000 for each singles winner.

Tickets for the semis (16 December) and finals (17 December) are available at www.ticketek.co.nz
- This story has been automatically published using a media release from New Zealand Tennis