Sports fans are in for a real treat as New Zealand’s second city once again bags a bounty of big name stars for New Year tennis tournament ASB Classic. Even non-sports fan will likely recognise a number of the athletes, most notably US superstar Venus Williams. One of the greatest tennis players of the modern era, Williams has seven Grand Slam singles titles to her name, 14 major doubles titles and four Olympic golds. Only one other player currently on the circuit boasts more WTA singles titles, and that’s her superstar sister, Serena. Venus’s tally currently stands at 49.
“It’s great to have Venus back,” says tournament director, Karl Budge. “She has been a special part of this tournament for a number of years and we missed her this year. She is still at the top of the game and how good would it be if she could capture career title number 50 here in Auckland?”
“The ASB Classic continues to attract some of the world’s top tennis players,” adds Mark Graham, head of sponsorship at ASB. “We’re looking forward to a fantastic two weeks of tennis in Auckland over the summer.”
Other top names taking to the ASB court include defending champions Roberto Bautista Agut and world number nine Julia Goerges—a Wimbledon semi-finalist in July. Tomas Berdych, one of the past decade’s most successful players and one of only three men to have beaten all the ‘big four’—Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray—will make his Auckland debut.“In any other era, he would be a multiple Grand Slam champion,” says Budge. “We have chased Tomas every year that I have been tournament director, and we can’t wait to see him finally play here.”
Women’s world number two Caroline Wozniacki will try and go one better than her loss in last year’s final when she makes her fifth appearance in Auckland. Budge is beaming about having her back. “Along with Venus we have two global superstars who we know play their best tennis at the ASB Classic,” says the tournament director.
One to especially watch out for is South Korean sensation Hyeon Chung who earlier this year reached the Australian Open having seen off world number four Alexander Zverev, and Novak Djokovic. “Chung has lived up to the hype and high expectations after winning the inaugural Next Gen ATP Tour Finals last year,” says Budge. “Not only did he have this spectacular run at the Australian Open, he continued that form throughout the biggest tour events of the year.”
The tournament runs from 31 December until 12 January (women play the first week, men the second), with a change to the scheduling meaning the first couple of days will just be twilight sessions—what a way to kick off some New Year celebrations! “It provides a better opportunity for people to get out and watch, you can do things in the day and watch matches later in the evening,” Budge says. “The final will be on a much more friendly time on a Sunday, so it makes a better story for fans, players and the ASB Classic too.”
The ASB Classic has established itself as not only a world-class festival of tennis, but a world-class event full stop, with exciting brand partnerships aplenty. Its extensive entertainment programme even includes appearances from celebrity chefs. The tournament continued growth in sales and international broadcast viewership to more than 94 million in 2018.
Budge says his team are thrilled to welcome Jaguar to their family of sponsors. “Like us, they have won global awards for best in class and I think the brand perfectly aligns to ours,” he says. “Power, performance and that unmistakable elegance of Jaguar. Auckland traffic hasn’t been so bad of late!”
A range of Jaguars will be showcased along Tennis Lane, including the first public appearance by the I-Pace, the manufacturer’s first all-electric car. The players will also be ferried to and from the venue in the luxury motors.
“We’re incredibly enthusiastic about picking up the mantle of official vehicle partner,” says general manager of Jaguar NZ, Steve Kenchington, “and providing meaningful contribution to the development of New Zealand tennis on the world stage.”
An area called The Serve will host pop-up bars and eateries and a pair of giant screens means you won’t miss any of the action while kicking back. The all-new Moet & Chandon Racquet Club offers a premium poolside experience where guest can enjoy VIP cabanas sipping champagne and dining on dishes created by super chef Martin Bosley.
“We’re thrilled to be able to build on past year’s Moet Ice Lunch and introduce an exciting new Moet Ice pool party to the mix,” says Ali Campbell, senior brand manager at Moet & Chandon. “It’s the perfect way to celebrate two weeks of tennis, and fully enjoy the tournament’s top-class off-court experience.”
Before the centre court action on 5 January, Moet and Working Style will team up for a “playful poolside runway show” showcasing some summer collections. “Tennis is synonymous with summer fashion, so it’s the perfect way to showcase our summer designs,” says Chris Dobbs, Working Style’s managing director.
Expect some mouth-watering, thirst-busting cocktails and mocktails courtesy of East Imperial, who have teamed up with Jaguar, while the car brand has also created an exciting new app called Ace Pace that will measure the quality of your serve, with some super exciting prizes to follow. The best servers will be invited to test their driving skills against some of the tennis stars along a Smart Cone course, and as for the overall winner of that? They’ll bag tickets to Wimbledon.