3 Dec 2014

Best field yet for Auckland tournament

7:09 pm on 3 December 2014

The top seeds for January's Heineken Open tennis tournament in Auckland have been announced, with the addition of rising star Roberto Bautista Agut as the third seed.

The Spaniard ended the season ranked 15th in the world, while the top seed will again be another Spaniard, David Ferrer, who's currently 10th, with 13th-ranked Latvian Ernests Gulbis the second seed.

Roberto Bautista Agut won the ATP most improved player award in 2014

Roberto Bautista Agut won the ATP most improved player award in 2014 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

With seven players ranked in the ATP's top 20, including the defending champion, the American John Isner and French star Gael Monfils, the tournament has the best field in action that week around the world, in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

And Heineken Open director Karl Budge says it's the best field yet for the Auckland event.

Budge still has a wildcard up his sleeve for another top player, should the likes of Rafael Nadal become available - though he says that's always unlikely.

And as the rival Sydney tournament the same week has a much weaker field, he says any top player who becomes available may look at Auckland and decide they want an easier opening week.

The winner of next week's national men's tennis championships in Auckland will earn a wildcard into the main draw of the Heineken Open.

The New Zealand tennis player Artem Sitak

Artem Sitak will be vying for the NZ title next week, and a Heineken Open wildcard Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Over the years there's been criticism levelled at the event for not handing out wildcards to local players, who normally have to come through a gruelling qualifying weekend before the tournament.

But with a wildcard into the main draw now going automatically to the winner of next week's national men's championships, Budge says they're trying to do everything they can to grow the game in New Zealand.

He says it's not just about the two international weeks but growing the game the other 50 weeks as well, and having a national champs with real aspirational value will certainly help that.

Sky Television will cover the closing stages of the national tennis championships too, next Friday and Saturday.

Full list of seeded players for the Heineken Open 2015:

1. David Ferrer

2. Ernests Gulbis

3. Roberto Bautista Agut

4. Kevin Anderson

5. Tommy Robredo

6. Gael Monfils

7. John Isner

8. Santiago Giraldo

Heineken Open 2015 - full field

David Ferrer / ESP (10)

Ernests Gulbis / LAT (13)

Roberto Bautista Agut / ESP (15)

Kevin Anderson / RSA (16)

Tommy Robredo / ESP (17)

Gael Monfils / FRA (18)

John Isner / USA (19)

Santiago Giraldo / COL (32)

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez / ESP(36)

Steve Johnson / USA (37)

Yen-Hsun Lu / TPE (38)

Dominic Thiem / AUT (39)

Jack Sock / USA (42)

Adrian Mannarino / FRA (44)

Pablo Carreno Busta / ESP (51)

Joao Sousa / POR (54)

Donald Young / USA (57)

Jan-Lennard Struff / GER (59)

Federico Delbonis / ARG (60)