Fifteen-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff will play in the ASB Classic in Auckland this summer.
Gauff joins US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, 23-time grand slam singles champion Serena Williams and two-time defending champion Julia Goerges as players already confirmed, with the full field to be released on Wednesday.
"Coco is probably the biggest signing we've had this year and that's saying something," said tournament director Karl Budge. "What Coco achieved at Wimbledon had her on front pages around the world and it's amazing to think we've secured her to play in Auckland."
Andreescu and Gauff created the biggest headlines in women's tennis in 2019. Gauff's signature is a major coup and will ensure the 2020 ASB women's Classic is the highest-profile tournament staged in the city, surpassing even 2017, when Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki shared centre court.
"I can't wait to start my season in Auckland," said Gauff. "2019 was such an incredible year and I achieved so many of the goals I set for myself. Wimbledon was obviously a highlight, as was capturing my first WTA title. However, I have a number of goals and things I'm working on in my game. So many players talk about Auckland. I've not been before, so this will be cool to experience."
Gauff took the tennis world by storm in July, when as a qualifier she reached the last 16 at Wimbledon, after beating Venus Williams in the first round.
That was just the start of a phenomenal run of success. She made the last 32 at the US Open before capturing her first WTA title in Linz in Austria last month. She turns 16 in March.
Her game brings back memories of a young Venus Williams. She is tall and fast, and has a powerful serve, but is still developing, and there's an unpredictability about her play.
No player has arguably captured the attention of the public quite like the young American. More than five million viewers in the UK tuned in for her third-round Wimbledon match against Polona Herzog, and each of her US Open matches were the most viewed of the day. Around 14,000 fans packed the Louis Armstrong Stadium court for her doubles match.
Unlike Wimbledon, where she was a late entry into the qualifying draw as a wildcard and seemingly had no pressure, New York was different.
Gauff was the centre of attention from the outset and handled it well in the first two rounds. But the weight of expectation appeared to get the better of her in the third round against defending champion and then world No 1 Naomi Osaka when she succumbed in straight sets and was visibly upset. Gauff, from Florida, and Osaka had trained as youngsters at the same club in Delray Beach. Osaka consoled Gauff after the match by urging her to stay and do the on-court interview together. Both cried.
Because of her youth, Gauff is not eligible for tournament wildcards into regular tour events, so gets into the ASB Classic main draw based on her ranking of 68.
That is incredible. She started the year ranked outside the top 800 and while stating her goal was to make the top 100 in 2019, it didn't seem realistic.
"Ever since I was young, my parents have always told me I could do it. So a lot of the things that happened, yes, it's surprising, but not as big a surprise as it appears to everyone else."
Last year's ASB Classic proved a springboard for Andreescu, who at the age of 18 reached the final as a qualifier. The Canadian went on to win WTA Premier titles in Indian Wells and Toronto before stunning Serena Williams to win the US Open, her maiden grand slam title.
Williams is returning to the Classic for a second time and there is a strong possibility more grand slam winners will be confirmed when the full list of direct acceptances is revealed on Wednesday.
Budge has also chased the likes of former Wimbledon and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza and former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, while last year's Australian Open champion Wozniacki has become a regular in Auckland.