Kiwi tennis teenager Valentina Ivanov has been given an unlikely shot at glory — and is determined to make the most of it.

The 18-year-old was confirmed on Friday afternoon as the final wildcard into the ASB Classic women's event, which starts on Monday.

It will be her first outing at a WTA-level event, and could set up a quintessential underdog clash, with Ivanov, at world No 815, one of the lowest ranked wildcards in the tournament's history.

Of course, it's a decision based on her potential, but still a tough ask.


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Ivanov spent most of last year playing College tennis in the United States, and has only faced one top-300 player in her career.

At the ASB Classic the majority of the field, which includes two former World No 1's and four Grand Slam champions, are hardened professionals, ranked inside the top 80.

Surely that's a daunting prospect?

"It is a little bit but it helps me that last year I was in this environment and I have hit with some great players," said Ivanov. "I know hitting is different to match play but being able to keep up with them shows me that there is a fine line. I think I will be able to compete out there and I can't wait."

Ivanov, who collected a string of age group titles in New Zealand and Australia as a junior, admits she was stunned to get the news from tournament director Karl Budge.

"It's a big shock. I did not expect it," said Ivanov. "I was kinda lost for words. But I am so happy; I can't wait to play and hope I can bring some great tennis."

The 18-year-old said the key will be "not over-thinking things".

"I'll try and prepare as well as I can, and do the best that I can do," said Ivanov. "I won't expect too much but hope to do the best I can."


She also said that the chance of playing Serena Williams would be a "dream come true".

"Every single player my age has grown up watching her and she is one of the best female athletes in the world."

Ivanov reached the second round of qualifying in Auckland last year, before being eliminated by Dutch woman Bibiane Schoofs, who won two more matches before falling to Eugenie Bouchard.

Ivanov played some Futures events after that, with mixed results, before enrolling at the University of Berkley in September.

She compiled a decent 12-4 record, and also reached the quarter finals of a US$25,000 ITF event in Arizona.

Erin Routliffe is the only New Zealander in qualifying, and has one of the toughest possible draws, facing former world No 5 and French Open finalist Sara Errani.

The veteran Italian has slipped to No 260 in the world, but will probably have too much guile and experience for Routliffe, who only played 15 singles matches last year.

Top seed Williams made her first appearance in Auckland, after arriving from the United States with a large entourage at 6am on Friday morning.

She took to the court for a extended practice session on Friday afternoon, only eight hours after getting off the plane.

Williams looked sharp — in her first hitout of the year — and attracted a big crowd of onlookers onto the players' balcony, as is standard with the 37-year-old, who was recently named athlete of the decade by Associated Press.