BRISBANE, SHENZHEN & AUCKLAND - The stars are out in full force this week, as the entire Top 10 takes the courts of Brisbane, Shenzhen, and Auckland, for the first three WTA events of 2013.
The Brisbane International boasts the biggest bunch of the elite, with eight of the Top 10 headed to the $1,000,000, Premier tournament. And that group of eight includes the Top 3 players in the world, the trio who swept the Grand Slams in 2012 - Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.
Another five Top 10 players join them in the draw, namely Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova, Samantha Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki. Kvitova has some very fond memories of this tournament, having won here in 2011, while Stosur will try to make a big impression in front of her home crowd.
"This is the best preparation you can ask for going into a Grand Slam," Stosur said. "The goal is to get as many matches as I can before Melbourne, but it won't be easy - it's a tough tournament for every player here given the strength of the draw. Whoever gets through this event is definitely playing well."
Stosur's first match is against Sofia Arvidsson, a two-time WTA champion with a slew of Top 10 wins to her name. "It's a tough first round match - I've played Sofia a few times in the past and it's never easy," Stosur said. "I'm ready to go though, and I'm definitely going to try and play some good tennis here."
The match is scheduled for New Year's Eve. "It's a bit strange playing my first match of 2013 before 2013 starts," Stosur said, "but hopefully it'll be a great crowd and a great way to see the new year in."
Also in Brisbane in the world's No.1 doubles team, Italian partnership Errani and Roberta Vinci, who took the team discipline by storm last year with eight WTA titles - including their first two Slams.
The two Top 10 players missing from the Brisbane field are headlining the draws in the two International-level tournaments this week, over in Shenzhen, China and Auckland, New Zealand.
Li Na, currently No.7 in the world, will be the top seed at the Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open, a brand new $500,000 event at the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center. Among those threatening the Chinese trailblazer for the title are a pair of former Top 10 players, Marion Bartoli and Jelena Jankovic.
Agnieszka Radwanska, the World No.4, headlines at the ASB Classic, a $220,000 event held at the ASB Tennis Arena, and currently in its 28th straight year on the calendar. Among the many threats Radwanska faces in the draw is fellow former World No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is playing her first tournament since Wimbledon last June, having sat out the last six months with a knee injury.