3 Jan 2015

Erakovic to face Puig, Wozniacki draws a qualifier

5:34 pm on 3 January 2015

New Zealand tennis number one Marina Erakovic has been drawn to meet her new doubles partner Monica Puig in the first round of the ASB Classic tournament in Auckland.

Marina Erakovic practices for the ASB Classic

Marina Erakovic practices for the ASB Classic Photo: Photosport

The pair practiced together on Friday, including a set of singles - then on Saturday they found out they'll be playing each other.

Erakovic says that happens more often than you'd think, and they'll still be friends no matter who wins.

The top seed Caroline Wozniacki drew a qualifier first up, while fellow drawcard Venus Williams is up against the Slovakian world No.56 Jana Cepelova.

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki Photo: Photosport

ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge says he's relieved his two headliners have a chance to meet in the final, as Wozniacki and Williams landed on the other side of the draw.

The opening match for second seed Sara Errani could be the highlight of the first round - the Italian world No.14 plays Daniela Hantuchova, the world No.62.

Former grand slam winners Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia and Francesca Schiavone have both drawn qualifiers.

Rising American left-hander Taylor Townsend's been handed a wildcard into the main draw. Townsend's a junior Australian Open champion in both singles and doubles and is now ranked 104th in the world, so she would've had to come through qualifying if she hadn't got a wildcard.

The 18-year-old left-hander's first-round opponent is the tough former ASB Classic champion, the Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.

The American great Williams was welcomed onto Orakei Marae at Bastion Point by the local iwi Ngati Whatua on Saturday afternoon.

Venus Williams gets a hongi at Orakei Marae

Venus Williams gets a hongi at Orakei Marae Photo: Photosport

All three New Zealanders competing in qualifying have been eliminated in the first round, Rosie Cheng and Jade Lewis losing in straight sets while Katherine Westbury took the first set in a tiebreak off her Czech opponent Lucie Hradecka, before falling in three.