Seles heads for Hong Kong

Former world number one Monica Seles will head the field for the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge tennis exhibition from January 1-4, the event organisers said on Friday.

Seles, ranked seven in the world, will be joined by fellow Americans Chanda Rubin and Alexandra Stevenson, ranked 13 and 18 respectively, and Bulgarian star Magdalena Maleeva.

Seles, the number one seed and nine-time grand slam champion, will clash with 16 year old Chinese sensation Peng Shuai in her opening match.

“With the level of tennis today there are no easy matches, so I’ve been training hard for the new season. I’ve heard great things about Peng and I am really looking forward to a competitive match,” Seles said in a statement released by the event organizers.

Florida-based Peng, ranked 359 in the world, has been tipped to become China’s first female player to be ranked in the world’s top 20.

“I guess I’m excited and nervous at the same time, but it will be a great experience for me to play against such a great champion,” Peng said in a statement.

A trio of Russians will also be hoping to win the exhibition to boost their confidence ahead of the first grand slam tournament of the year later that month, the Australian Open.

Former Olympic silver medallist and last year’s losing finalist, Elena Dementieva, will be hoping to go one better this year. The Russian will face off against Rubin in a tough first round matchup.

Anastasia Myskina, 21, who won her second career title in Bahia en route to climbing to number 11 in the world rankings, will meet former Wimbledon semifinalist Stevenson in her opening match.

Promising 15 year old Russian Maria Sharapova will take on Bulgarian veteran Maleeva in the opening round.