Tournament director Karl Budge has proclaimed Serena Williams as the biggest sports star to play in New Zealand in the last two decades, and while that is up for debate, she's certainly the biggest name ever to grace the centre court at the ASB Classic.
Only Margaret Court has won more Grand Slam singles titles and Williams, at 37, continues to defy logic by dominating women's tennis in an era where more than a dozen players go into every Grand Slam which a genuine chance of winning.
Hats off to Budge for luring the former World No 1 back after her ignominious exit three years ago. Williams couldn't cope with the wind in a defeat by the unheralded Maddison Brengle in the second round and later lambasted Auckland and the tournament; comments that were picked up around the world.
Few people could have imagined her returning, but Budge is a persuasive type, reminscent of a Persian cat - calm and laidback until he's ready to pounce, and when he does he invariably snares his prey.
There were mitigating circumstances when Williams disgraced herself with her behaviour at the 2017 ASB Classic. She was in the early stages of pregnancy, and it's remarkable to think she went from Auckland to Melbourne and would go on to claim her 23rd Grand Slam title.
She remains one shy of the record held my Court and will seek redemption at the US Open next week, having lost to Naomi Osaka in the most controversial of finals 12 months ago. Williams has come up short in her last three Grand Slam finals, suffering a straight sets defeat to Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon last year, to Osaka in New York, and a surprise 6-2 6-2 hammering by Simona Halep at Wimbledon in July.
The fact she made it to the big dance illustrates just how talented she is; unrivalled when she's at the peak of her powers. But one also senses the window is starting to close. She's 37, doesn't move particularly well and has had numerous injury problems in recent times. She has typically entered Grand Slams on limited preparation, relying almost solely on her power game to compensate for her lack of fitness. The failure to get the elusive 24th Grand Slam has seen her start to heed the advice of those who suggest she needs to play more WTA events, particularly around Grand Slams, and that has clearly worked in Auckland's favour.
By playing the ASB Classic in January she will look to replicate what she did at the 2017 Australian Open, albeit with a more positive result in Auckland. Tickets went on sale soon after the announcement Williams was signed and now they are in short supply. Budge has indicated he has a player ranked higher than the world number eight locked away.
Throw in the likes of former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, and last year's runner-up Bianca Andreescu, who will be close to top ten by the time the Classic rolls around, and the old cliche Budge likes to bring out - "It is shaping as our best field yet" - might just ring true.