Last chance for match practice before first Grand Slam of 2015
With just a week to go before the first Grand Slam event of the season, this is the final chance for players to get some match practice ahead of the Australian Open.
Most of the big names in the men’s game are sitting out the various events this week although there is a strong women’s field in Sydney for the Apia International. Keep reading for our preview of all this week’s tennis action.
Apia International Sydney
The Apia International Sydney has a rich history, dating back to 1885 when colonial officials used it as a means to select the Davis Cup team.
This year it will give the reigning men’s champion an opportunity to get some match practice in on his return from injury. Juan Martin del Potro played his last singles match on 25 February 2014 and will return to Sydney to defend his title after coming through a training session last week.
Local favourite Bernard Tomic has reached the final of this event in each of the last two years, capturing the title in 2013. David Goffin was voted the ATP Tour’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2014 and will feature here alongside Fabio Fognini, Philipp Kohnschreiber and Nick Kyrgios.
The women’s event has seen some illustrious winners over the years including Kim Clijsters, Lindsey Davenport, Chris Evert and Monica Seles. Just one winner of the tournament has gone on to win the Australian Open in the last decade – that was Victoria Azarenka in 2012 – although there will be plenty of women looking to do so this year.
The effervescent Romanian Simona Halep is the top seed and got 2015 off to a great start by winning the first tournament of the year in Shenzhen on Saturday. Second seed Petra Kvitova was surprisingly beaten by the unfancied Swiss player Timea Bacsinszky in the semi-finals in China and will hope to do better in Sydney.
Caroline Wozniacki reached the final in Auckland last week before losing in a tight three set encounter to Venus Williams. The Dane should go well although the fourth seed faces a tricky opening round encounter with the talented Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
2013 champion and third seed Agnieska Radwanska could be a danger here as could the rising star Ekaterina Makerova.
Launched in 1994, this WTA tournament is unusual in that it has produced a different winner every year. Over the past few years, there have been some little known winners of the tournament and so this is a tough event to call.
Garbiñe Muguruza is the reigning champion but the woman to beat is the local favourite Casey Dellacqua. Karina Diyas from Kazakhstan is ranked 32 in the world and could go well while Germany’s Mona Barthel won in Hobart in 2012.
Sloane Stephens was beaten by her American compatriot Lauren Davis in Auckland last week and both women feature here as does Britain’s Heather Watson, still ranked in the world’s top 50.
The Heineken Open is the biggest men’s professional sporting event in New Zealand and has been held in Auckland since 1956.
David Ferrer’s fourteen match unbeaten run at the event ended in last year’s semi-finals but the Spaniard is the man to beat in Auckland again this year.
The reigning champion is John Isner who will return to defend his title while a strong field also includes Kevin Anderson, Ernests Gulbis, Roberto Bautista Agut and Tommy Robredo.