It's undoubtedly the best line-up ever assembled at January's women's ASB Classic in Auckland. Five Grand Slam champions among the direct acceptance list of 24, with 164 WTA titles between them. There are massive drawcards with Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and 18-year-old Amanda Anisimova among the seeds. Radio Sport's Matt Brown casts his eye over some of the players you won't want to miss.
Ok, the 19-year-old is the top seed ranked five in the world, an obvious drawcard. But hang on - this is the same player who captivated the centre court crowd 10 months ago, when as a qualifier she beat Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki en route to the final, where she lost to Julia Goerges. Fans here took notice before anywhere else and saw firsthand the forehand that is now widely described as the most deadly in women's tennis. She went on to win Premier level titles in Indian Wells and Toronto before beating Serena Williams in the US Open final. She is box office appeal.
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Along with Andreescu, the 15-year-old American created the biggest headlines in women's tennis this year. As a qualifier she beat Venus Williams and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon. Her game is Williams-esque, with a huge serve, powerful forehand and more so than Venus, Gauff is a tremendous mover. She doesn't turn 16 until March and has already won her maiden WTA title. Gauff will be a superstar for the next decade.
Catherine (Cici) Bellis
The 20-year-old American was touted as the 'next big thing' in US tennis a couple of years ago. As a teenager she reached 35 in the rankings before a succession of injuries (right arm, elbow and wrist) threatened her career. A WTA newcomer of the year in 2017, Bellis was told by a doctor a month before she returned to tennis earlier this month that she would never play pro tennis again. She returned to the tour in Houston for the first time since March 2018 in Miami, and notched up some decent results. She's a former world junior number one and it's great to see her effectively launch her comeback in Auckland.
The 22-year-old first appeared at the tournament as a wildcard in 2017. Then just 19, she made an immediate impression with her all-action attacking game. However, much like Andreescu, no one could have expected the Latvian to go on and capture a maiden Grand Slam title later that year. But just six months later, two days after her 20th birthday, Ostapenko would rally from a set and 3-0 down to beat third seed Simona Halep 6-3 in the third set and win the Roland Garros women's title. And while Ostapenko has endured her share of troubles since, she reached the final in her last tournament of the year, losing to Gauff in Linz. The little Latvian pocket rocket will be a crowd pleaser if she gets going.
The Russian is appearing in Auckland for the second time, after beating Venus Williams in 2016. The 22-year-old broke into the world's top 10 a year ago after winning the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. She's had a difficult year with a lot of tight losses and is currently without a coach. But Kasatkina is a tremendous talent, won the French Open junior title in 2015 and will be a tournament dark horse with her ranking of 69. She breaks the mould of the typical baseline power hitter, playing with finesse and mixing in drop shots in a game stacked with variety. Kasatkina is an entertainer on the court and will be popular with the Auckland crowd.