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It is a very happy Ashley Harkleroad after her first up win at the ASB Classic on Monday.
The 18-year-old American will now have a day off before facing a possible showdown with 2002 champion Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi on Wednesday in the second round.
She looked very comfortable during the first set of her match against Teryn Ashley but was pushed a lot harder in the second set.
"I know her (Ashley) very well, I've played doubles with her," Harkleroad said following her victory on Monday.
"I was pretty pleased with it. It is my first tournament of the year and it was my first match of the year. I was a little nervous at the beginning but I am happy I got through it and I think I played pretty well," she said.
It would have a tough start to her 2004 calendar with a one hour and six minute battle in very hot conditions on centre court at Auckland.
Not only was the heat a major factor but also the wind at the ASB Bank Tennis Centre was causing some players a few problems.
"I have been in Miami so its very windy there and so I am used to it. It was a little more windy in the second than in the first set," she admitted.
"It is hotter here. In Miami it is winter so its only about 60 degrees."
The fact that she was forced to work much harder in the second set may well be a blessing in disguise, not that she would admit that after her first round match though.
"Umm, no," she laughed.
"I just kept trying to do the things that I knew I should do and just try to stay focused but like I said it was my first match of the year so I was pretty happy with the way I competed."
Harkleroad's second round match will be against either Smashnova-Pistolesi or Julia Vakulenko.
"I have never played her in a tournament but I practised with her this week and she likes to move me around a little bit."
Harkleroad admitted that she was happy with the draw in Auckland, which sees her get a day off from singles action on Tuesday.
"I can practise and just work on doubles and then concentrate on singles again on Wednesday."
Ashley Harkleroad has come a long way since she made her first trip to the ASB Classic two years ago.
In 2002 her ranking was so low that she couldn't even get into the qualifying tournament and left New Zealand without even playing a match.
Last year she battled through the qualifying before going out in the second round to Emmanuel Gagliardi in a three set thriller.
Now she is straight into the main draw and at 51 in the world is the 9th highest ranked player in the Classic, just missing out on being a seed.
At the age of 18 Harkleroad is set of a big year on the WTA circuit and judging by the amount of websites already devoted to her she's already made a large impression with some people.
Harkleroad became a crowd favourite at last year's ASB Classic and it was the warm reception given to her that was one of the reasons why she's chose to come back again.
"I've always enjoyed it here and I've been here for three years in a row," Harkleroad said. "It's a nice city and there's nice restaurants around, it's a good tournament and it's always a good crowd so I have a lot of fun here.
Harkleroad hasn't set any goals on how far she'd like to move up the rankings during 2004 but is looking to just make a general improvement on her game and let the rankings take care of themselves.
"I'm not really looking at rankings and I didn't do that last year either," she said. "I'm just trying to improve and get my game better every match and hopefully I'll have good year this year and I'll improve everyday and my ranking will improve."
"In the off season I worked on getting fitter and stronger and just try to get more muscle and pop on my serve.
"I just want to have more of an all round game."
Harkleroad is rated as one of the hot young prospects for USA in tennis and has been under the media spotlight for four years despite only being 18, but it is something she has had to come to live with while still retaining a sense of humour.
Even though she did not have to do this interview with nzoom.com after a training session she was happy to talk away, a sign that she has still been able to keep her feet on the ground.
"I've been going through this ever since I was 14 so I've kind of got used to it," she said. "I struggled with it a lot, feeling a lot of pressure when I was younger. Now I just play for myself and have fun and enjoy it and whatever happens I do it for myself."
Harkleroad is in New Zealand with her coach, Jay Berger, and father and she says she like to have them with her on tour.
"When we're getting along it's nice!" She laughs. "No, it's nice to have support and you feel safe and content with everything."
Harkleroad is hoping to kick start her off season off well with a good performance in Auckland and to get as much game time as possible before the Australian Open where she will be playing for the first time ever in the main draw.
"It's a tournament I've played before and it would be nice to have a good tournament before the Australian Open," she said. "But I'm not going to put any added pressure on myself because this is the first tournament of the year and who really knows what's going to happen?"