The ASB Classic is the biggest men's professional sporting event in New Zealand, being held in Auckland since 1956. It became a part of the Open era in 1969 and has been a regular stop on the Tour since 1974 when Bjorn Borg claimed his first ATP title there.
Miloslav Mecir, Thomas Enqvist, Marcelo Rios, Gustavo Kuerten, Fernando Gonzalez, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro and John Isner had also won the tournament in the past, with Tennys Sandgren being the newest name on that list after winning the title this January.
The next year's edition of the ATP 250 tournament will take place between two big events, the ATP Cup and the Australian Open and the organizers have started to bring the necessary changes on the ASB Tennis Arena, offering both the players and crowd more enjoyable experience during the matches.
The famous Yock Stand on the central court will receive the transformation, with the concrete structure being taken down to make the space for the new facilities. Pre-demolition work had been completed and the main construction went down, standing on the site since 1966 and holding the crowd that has watched Billie Jean King, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Williams sisters over the years.
Tournament director Karl Budge is confident about strong ATP and WTA fields in Auckland on January 2020, already making the first moves and gathering the entry lists based on their wishes and possibilities. Budge is aware they can't attract all the players they would want to have although it should be a strong draw in both weeks, despite the tricky place in the ATP calendar between two more significant events.
Budge would love to get Stefanos Tsitsipas, Frances Tiafoe, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassiame, Daniil Medvedev and Borna Coric and it should be interesting to see who will actually show up in Auckland just a week before the first Grand Slam of the season.
"It looks like we've secured our big fish, which always then gives you an opportunity to play things differently for the rest of the year," Karl Budge said. "There's someone like Amanda Anisimova, who we've worked hard to build a relationship with.
She's 23 in the world right now and might finish in the top 10. Bianca Andreescu is also projected to finish the year in the top 10, we've spoken a lot to her agent, the question is how early do we want to commit and risk her being our top 10.
If you look at Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza, Victoria Azarenka, there are a lot of big name players who aren't in the top 10 at the moment. I'd love to be able to have a field with all the players who are saying yes to us, but the reality is that we don't have the budget to be able to achieve that.
As for the ATP field, while the ink's not dry on paper, we've probably got four or five deals confirmed already and that's a lot earlier than what we've ever done before. It means it gives us the flexibility for the rest of the year, where we're seeing a different approach from players.
We can hold a bit more before making our next move and start to see how the players go at the US Open and what they're likely to do around the start of the year. We have more wildcards than we've ever had to play with and we'll also have more budget available at the last minute.
I'm horribly proud of the role the ASB Classic has played in helping the next generation of players come through, having Anisimova, Andreescu and also Tsitsipas who had a wild card in Auckland two years ago. I would love Stefanos Tsitsipas, Frances Tiafoe, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassiame, Daniil Medvedev and Borna Coric to come."