Auckland's ASB Classic has delivered once again with eight of the world's top 30 players set to play at the ATP men's tennis tournament in January.
Two top 20 ranked Italians are included in the list of 19 direct acceptances, in the form of fiery world number 13 Fabio Fognini, and world number 20 Marco Cecchinato, who rose to fame at the French Open.
The 26-year-old made a remarkable run through to the semifinals at Roland Garros after stunning Novak Djokovic in four sets in their quarter-final encounter.
The tournament cut-off for direct acceptances is 58, higher than the rival Sydney International at 48, but with three more top 30 ranked players than the Australian tournament.
American world number 10 John Isner is the only top 10 ranked player playing in either ATP tournament the week before the Australian Open, and the two-time former Auckland champion will be a major threat here having had a career-best season in which he reached his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, and qualified for the ATP Finals in London earlier this month.
Fognini will be the second seed and he's had a stellar season in which he won three titles and compiled a 46 win, 22 loss record throughout the year.
He beat world number five Juan Martin del Potro to win the Los Cabos title in Mexico on hard court in July and also won the Swedish Open on clay in August and the Sao Paulo Open on clay in February.
Cecchinato will be the third seed. He won his first ATP World Tour title at the Hungarian Open but his year will be remembered for his stunning win over Djokovic in the French Open quarter-finals. It was the Serbian's last defeat before he would go on to claim back-to-back Grand Slams at Wimbledon and the US Open, and return to the world number one ranking.
There are a further five players ranked between 23 and 30 with Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta (23) joining compatriot and defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut (24).
Other top drawcards that had earlier been announced are 25th ranked Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung, Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov (27) and former world number seven Frenchman Gael Monfils (29), who will be the eighth seed.
As usual there is good depth throughout the field with 2008 Auckland champion Philip Kohlschreiber (ranked 34) returning for the first time in a number of years while ultra-consistent American Steve Johnson (33) returns. A new face is 21-year-old American star Taylor Fritz (49) who has been long talked about in the US as one of the next big things. He got married at the age of 18 and became a father a year later. After dropping down the rankings he has fought his way back this season and qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan earlier this month.
Czech star Tomas Berdych, a former Wimbledon finalist and for most of his career, a fixture in the top 10, will need a wildcard with his current ranking at 71, while former champion Jiri Vesely is ranked 89 and will have to come through qualifying. So will ex-Kiwi Cameron Norrie, whose parents still live in Auckland, but who switched allegiances to Britain after a stellar junior career and has now broken into the top 100 in the rankings.
The Sydney tournament has picked up young Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas who was an Auckland wildcard last January, and Britain's Kyle Edmund who was in Auckland but withdrew through injury. But despite that, and the absence of del Potro, who has opted to play the exhibition Kooyong Classsic in Melbourne instead, Budge will be well satisfied with the field he has assembled.
The ASB men's Classic runs from the 7th to the 12th of January.
List of direct acceptances for ASB men's Classic
John Isner (10)
Fabio Fognini (13)
Marco Cecchinato (20)
Pablo Carreno Busta (23)
Roberto Bautista Agut (24)
Hyeon Chung (25)
Denis Shapovalov (27)
Gael Monfils (29)
Steve Johnson (33)
Philipp Kohlschreiber (34)
Joao Sousa (44)
Taylor Fritz (49)
Robin Haase (50)
Benoit Paire (52)
Matteo Berrettini (54)
Pierre-Hugues Herbert (55)
Leonardo Mayer (56)
Jan-Lennard Struff (57)
Guido Pella (58)