Tournament director Karl Budge is proudly claiming January's ASB Classic women's tennis field in Auckland will be the best line-up of players in sport this country has seen.
Certainly in tennis terms, at least, he might be right. Budge announces the full list of direct acceptances for the WTA tournament today and regardless of whoever else enters, the sold out signs should go up at Stanley St from January 6.
French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova, 18, yesterday joined the two biggest stories in women's tennis in 2019, Canadian US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and 15-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff in the field.
Throw in 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and there's box office appeal in droves.
The signs are what already is the most high profile ASB Classic in memory is going to be even better, with Budge indicating at least two more Grand Slam singles champions have entered. He wouldn't reveal names, but it's fair to assume one is likely to be last year's Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, who has been a regular visitor to Auckland over the years. The former world No1 is ranked 37 and could struggle to be seeded, such is the strength of the expected line-up.
"This must be the best line-up of sport this country has seen. I can't think of a time that you have had this level of global true star power and relevance on any given week of sport in this country. It's a staggeringly good line-up and certainly the best I've been able to put together," Budge said.
It is impressive considering what the ASB Classic has to compete against.
The Brisbane International in the same week is a WTA Premier level tournament carrying US$1.5 million in prize money.
The Shenzhen tournament in China has a financial commitment of US $650,000. Auckland is a paltry $250,000 in comparison. A majority of top 40 players will head to Brisbane and some to Shenzhen.
American Anisimova, 18, announced yesterday, would in many tournaments she enters be the star billing. The second youngest player ranked in the top 100, at 24 in the world, she is destined to be a dominant force for years to come.
Budge is thrilled Anisimova has repaid the faith he showed in her by giving her a wildcard when she was ranked 96 in the world at the start of the year. She went on to reach the quarter-finals in January.
The 1.8m Anisimova has drawn comparisons with Maria Sharapova. Anisimova's game is similar to the former world No1.
There is likely to be another top 20 ranked player added to the entry list today alongside world No5 Andreescu and 10th-ranked Williams.
"I have the goal of absolutely selling out the ASB Classic this year," Budge said, referring to the quality of the field.