By David Long
New Zealand's number one, Shelly Stephens, signalled her intent to grab the second wildcard spot for next year's ASB Classic by emphatically winning the final of the Auckland Champs.
Stephens defeated fourth seed Niki Tippens 6-2 6-1 at the Vodafone Tennis Park on Thursday night amid the heat and humidity and after the game she told nzoom.com that she hoped she'd done enough this year to secure a spot in the main draw for New Zealand's premier women's event.
"At the moment I'm the top New Zealander and I think I've put up a pretty good case although everyone thinks they should get it," Stephens said.
The highly promising 17-year-old Eden Marama has already been given the first wildcard spot to the ASB Classic as tournament director Richard Palmer switches his focus to the younger New Zealand players coming through rather than the more established Stephens, Leanne Baker and Ilke Gers.
But Stephens is still hungry to play at the Classic.
"I obviously really want the wildcard," she said. "I feel like I'm in good form, I've just won the Auckland Champs and played a good match tonight.
"I'm the top ranked player and if anyone else thinks they deserves the spot then they should have had a better ranking than me at the end of the year."
Stephens said she was delighted to win the Auckland Championships and is pleased with her current form.
"I'm very happy, I thought I played very well tonight," she said. "I played consistently and I went after the balls that I had to attack and I was aggressive and was able to stick to my gameplan."
"In the last few months I've been playing pretty well. I had a good win in October against Lilia Osterloh who was formerly 50 in the world and made the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic.
"So I'm pretty happy with my form at the moment and feel like I'm playing some good tennis."
Before the ASB Classic comes the New Zealand Residentials which start in Albany next week and Stephens is keen to defend the title she won for the first time last year.