Tennis: Russian duo sign on for ASB Classic

Vera Zvonareva was the number one seed at the 2008 ASB Classic. Photo / File
Vera Zvonareva was the number one seed at the 2008 ASB Classic. Photo / File

Former world no.2 players Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova are the latest additions to next year's ASB Classic as the tournament's full field was revealed today.

The Russian pair, who won the doubles title at this year's Australian Open, bolster the field with the sixth top 30 player also confirmed today - Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova.

New ASB Classic Tournament Director Karl Budge says he never thought he would have three former world no. 2s playing in Auckland, with the tournament's top billing Agnieszka Radwanska also reaching that spot earlier this year.

"The tournament promises to be a great contest between the young blood of Radwanska, Goerges and Shvedova against the wise heads of Zvonareva and Kuznetsova. And the two former champions [Wickmayer and Zheng] will keep them all honest."

Zvonareva, with 12 career titles under her belt, was ranked at no. 2 just two years ago when she was a finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open.

This time last year she was playing in the season-ending championships for the world's top eight players.

Despite making the third rounds at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics this year, Zvonareva's season has been affected by niggly injuries. The 28-year-old has a good record in Auckland being a finalist in 2006 and 2007.

Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam winner (at the US Open in 2004 and Roland Garros in 2009), reached the semifinals in Auckland this year. She went through to the fourth round at Roland Garros in May but struggled with a knee injury for the latter part of the year.

Defending champion and world no. 26 Zheng Jie confirmed at the weekend that she will be returning. This means the top six players all come from the world top 30 - Poland's Radwanska (no. 4), Germany's Julia Goerges (no. 18), 2010 champion Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer (no. 23), China's Zheng, Romania's Sorana Cirstea (no.27) and Shvedova (no.29).

Shvedova made headlines this year when she became the first woman in the open era to win a golden set - winning all 24 points in a single set - in the first set of her win over world no. 7 Sara Errani at Wimbledon. She went to a career high 25 in the world last month after making the French Open quarterfinals and the fourth round at Wimbledon. The former Wimbledon and US Open doubles champion has made one appearance in Auckland in 2006.

The ASB Classic field also features Kiwi no. 1 Marina Erakovic, and up and comers Heather Watson (UK) and Christina McHale (USA), who is ranked just outside the top 30 at 33 in the world.

The 2013 ASB Classic runs from 31 December this year to 5 January 2013.

- nzherald.co.nz

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