By Matt Brown
Some real star power is set to be added to the ASB Classic women's field.
The Herald understands former world number 1 Victoria Azarenka will likely be among the names announced when the full list of direct acceptances for January's WTA tournament in Auckland is unveiled at a function in the city on Wednesday evening.
Azarenka has won two Grand Slam singles titles - at the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013 and has claimed a total of 20 WTA titles.
Outside the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, and Maria Sharapova the 28-year-old Belarusian is one of the most recognisable players in the world.
Azarenka will need a wildcard to play in Auckland with her current world ranking at 205.
It would, however, be a no-brainer for tournament director Karl Budge who believes that, when fit and firing, Azarenka is one of the top five female players around.
If confirmed, her appearance in Auckland will add to what is shaping as a quality field with another former world number one, the in-form Caroline Wozniacki, and Poland's former ASB Classic champion Agnieszka Radwanska already announced.
Wozniacki recently won the season-ending WTA Championships.
Azarenka returned to the tour in June after having a baby boy last December, but split from the father and has been embroiled in a long-running custody battle since.
She showed her qualities by winning the grass-court tournament in Birmingham before reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon.
However, due to her legal battles she hasn't played since and missed last weekend's Fed Cup final for Belarus in the defeat by the USA.
Azarenka has played in Auckland once before as a wildcard in 2006 after she had been ranked the world's number one junior.
The ASB Classic women's event runs from the January 1 to 6, with the men's tournament from the 8th to the 13th.