Auckland - Four-time champion David Ferrer cruised through the opening
round of the Auckland Classic on Tuesday but South Korea's Chung Hyeon suffered
a stunning loss to local underdog Rubin "Jose" Statham.
Ferrer, 36, has retired from Grand Slams but the former
world number three is making a few appearances at his favourite ATP tournaments
in 2019, with Auckland first on the list.
The Spaniard brushed aside Dutchman Robin Haase 6-2, 6-1 to
ease into the second round and must be regarded as a real chance of winning a
record fifth title in this year's depleted Auckland field.
Defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut has pulled out of
the event along with Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils, leaving top seeded
American John Isner as the main drawcard.
Ferrer said it felt special to contest a tournament that had
meant a lot to him over the years.
"It's very exciting because it's the last one," he
said. "The support of the people for me, it's very nice to play one more
"These are going to be my last tournaments and I want
to finish as late in them as possible."
Ferrer may have a rival as the Auckland crowd's sentimental
favourite if Statham can maintain the form that saw him shock Chung.
A 31-year-old journeyman ranked 310 the world, Statham is
only in the tournament because organisers threw him a late wildcard due to the
high number of player withdrawals.
He was expected to be cannon fodder for Chung, the world
number 25, who beat Novak Djokovic on the way to the semi-finals of last year's
Australian Open.But he came back from 5-1 down in the opening set to win
7-5, 6-3, rating it the biggest singles victory of his career.
"It's been 17 years as a professional and one of my
better wins, if not my best win," Statham said. "I'm happy with the
way I played and to start the year well."
The loss means Chung risks arriving in Melbourne short of
match practice after also suffering a second round defeat to Ernests Gulbis in
Pune last week.
As top seed, Isner goes straight through to the second round
and will begin his campaign on Wednesday, when he faces fellow American Taylor