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After 15 years, stubborn Croatian tennis pro vows to return to ASB Classic until she finally wins

It’s arguably one of the most star-studded line-ups in ASB Classic history, and tonight two former world number ones will go head-to-head.

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The Croatian player says she’ll keep coming back until she tastes victory. Source: 1 NEWS

Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka are two of the marquee names in the draw for this year’s tournament.

But for most professional tennis players, the stark reality of life on tour is a far cry from the glamorous match-ups in front of thousands of fans.

Croatian doubles player Darija Jurak was just 19 when she first played in Auckland a decade and a half ago.

She was knocked out in qualifying and still remembers the shock of leaving a European winter.

“It was so sunny [here], I came from Croatia. First day I was practicing for two hours and I got sunburned immediately,” she says.

But for the best part of the last 15 years, Jurak has kept returning to the Classic to kick-off her season.

With five WTA doubles titles to her name, she’s now a veteran of the tour.

"You're grinding your way out, you live for the tennis.

“I don't celebrate New Year. I was in bed at 10.30pm because I know I have to be fit for morning practice, which I have to give my best.

"You cannot afford a glass of wine or two because I know it will influence at least me, personally."

She has only ever played on centre court here a few times and achieved her best result at the Classic last year, reaching the doubles semi-finals with Nao Hibino from Japan.

But she says there’s something about the tournament that’s inspired loyalty in players to keep returning.

The likes of Venus Williams, Lauren Davis and Caroline Wozniacki have become Auckland regulars.

And 15 years on from her first appearance at the tournament, the 34-year-old is still as hungry as ever.

"I will keep on coming until I win the tournament. I'm a very stubborn person."