Star-Studded First Week Of 2014
Published November 29, 2013 12:03
BRISBANE, SHENZHEN & AUCKLAND - The start of the 2014 season is just four weeks away, and the WTA stars are already lined up for what's looking to be an absolutely star-studded first round of tournaments - the Premier event in Brisbane and International stops in Shenzhen and Auckland.
Williams conquered Brisbane in 2013, the first of her personal best 11 WTA titles on the season.
"I was really excited to win," Williams said. "I was so focused on the final and felt like this was a good start for the Australian Open. They have a great fitness center; they have great courts that are identical to the surface played in Melbourne. Plus I have a week off after the tournament, so it's always a good preparation to play in Brisbane, and it's always fun to go back and try and defend your title."
Azarenka won Brisbane in 2009, which was actually her first WTA title - she now has 17 to her name.
"I always enjoy spending time in Queensland and I really love playing on Pat Rafter Arena," Azarenka said. "I won my first WTA title there so I have some fond memories and I'd love to win the title again.
"Brisbane always has a strong field and it will provide me with tough matches against the world's best."
The two other Top 10 players will both be across the water at the Shenzhen Open - Li Na and Sara Errani. Li is coming off an absolute breakthrough season in 2013, not just winning the inaugural edition of this very tournament on home soil, but reaching two of the biggest finals of the year - the Australian Open and WTA Championships. Right at the end of the year she ascended to No.3 in the world, not just a new career-high but also the highest ranking ever achieved by an Asian player, male or female.
"Ni Hao and greetings Shenzhen," Li said from Istanbul. "As defending champion, I am happy and excited to be starting the season once again in Shenzhen. Me and my team really enjoyed our stay at the inaugural tournament this year. The stadium, hotel, organization and food were all top class and the people were most welcoming to me. I am proud that a first year tournament in my home country could be such a success, and I hope the tournament continues to grow and that I can play good tennis again for you all this coming January. Congratulations to the Shenzhen Open and see you soon."
A few WTA stars will also be making long-awaited returns to the tour in Week 1 of the new season, perhaps most notably former World No.2 Vera Zvonareva, who is set to make her return from shoulder surgery in Shenzhen - it will be her first tournament since the London Olympics a year and a half ago.
Another pair of comebacks will take place in Auckland, with Iveta Melzer - formerly Iveta Benesova - making her comeback from a left shoulder injury, her last tournament coming at the US Open in 2012, and Garbiñe Muguruza playing her first tournament since Wimbledon this year after ankle surgery.