The ASB Classic is fast becoming the envy of tournaments in week one of the tennis year, according to director Karl Budge.
While the 'big four' of men's tennis continue to elude Budge's grasp, the signings of Serena and Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic for 2017 have raised the tournament's reputation to a level that has caught the attention tournaments from around the world.
"We're probably the talk of the tennis world at the moment," Budge said. "To have Auckland at the bottom of the world leading certainly women's tennis and seeing, on a consistent basis now, the best players playing our week and choosing Auckland over bigger prize money, bigger ranking points around the world - it's encouraging and long may it continue."
The men's draw was completed yesterday with the announcement that former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro will return to Auckland for the first time since 2009.
For just the second time in a decade the ASB Classic won't have a male top-10 draw card but Budge continues to target the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray for future tournaments.
"I think we've got one of those big four this year in del Potro," Budge said. "I think del Potro is at the absolute pinnacle in men's tennis at the moment and it just shows that we can wheel out the biggest and best a week before a grand slam.
"Is it easy? Absolutely not, but I think where there's a will there's a way and I think we've proven over the last couple of years that you can bring Serena Williams here, you can bring Juan Martin del Potro here and we'll keep trying."
The arrival of Serena Williams will hopefully ensure more big names sign up, something which will be helped by additional funding from sponsors and government.
"We're in a great spot commercially," said Budge. "I think momentum in sport is a wonderful thing, you get that on the court and you get that off the court and we're sitting here now with a very settled sponsorship family with sold out tickets, every corporate hospitality box we've got is sold and we're in a great spot."
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) play a big part in running the tournament - something Budge appreciates especially in light of the trouble Duco Events experienced when trying to secure government funding for Joseph Parker's WBO title fight in Auckland.
"We've got a great relationship with Ateed and Ateed are a big part of the ASB Classic and without them we certainly wouldn't have the tournament we have here," said Budge.
"It's not just the financial support, it's the support they can give to make sure that the event can take place. That's a really valuable commodity and we'll do everything we can to make sure we can keep that relationship as close as we can."
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