David Ferrer is returning to Auckland - and the possibility he'll become the greatest champion Stanley St has seen adds an intriguing storyline to the men's edition of the ASB Classic.
Ferrer was confirmed yesterday as a late addition to next week's field, after his first round loss in Doha.
The world No 7 had requested an Auckland wildcard after meetings with tournament organisers at the US Open, though it was agreed his presence would depend on his Doha results.
The early exit in the Middle East has facilitated his arrival -- and nothing would be more appropriate than the 33-year-old becoming the first man to win five singles titles in Auckland. He shares the record of four with legendary Australian Roy Emerson, who won 12 Grand Slam titles and was victorious in Auckland in 1960, 1965, 1966 and 1967.
In a way, no one has done more than Ferrer to put the Auckland ATP event on the map over the past decade. Other star names have come -- and thrilled the crowds -- but nobody of such pedigree has turned up so often, and done so well.
He's also boosted the credibility of the tournament in the locker room, where opinions and perspectives count for a lot. Three times he has come here as world No 5, once as world No 3. That kind of loyalty speaks volumes among his peers.
And his consistency has been outstanding. Ferrer has been to Auckland 10 times and only once failed to make the quarter-finals, in 2010, when he was knocked out in the second round by eventual finalist Arnaud Clement.
Ferrer's first visit was in 2003. Ranked world No 58, he reached the last eight before being knocked out by compatriot Alberto Martins. Ferrer won his first title four years later, beating Gaston Gaudio and Mardy Fish before trumping Tommy Robredo in the final.
Ferrer then enjoyed an astonishing period of dominance between 2011 and 2013, when he was unbeatable on the Auckland hard courts, lifting the trophy three times in a row.
Ferrer's presence is also a huge boost for the tournament, with an unprecedented four players inside the world top 12 (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 10, John Isner 11, Kevin Anderson 12).
Tsonga arrived on Tuesday and enjoyed a fishing trip to Waiheke on Wednesday. Former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber is also in town, as is 2009 finalist Sam Querrey.
Ferrer in Auckland
2003 - Ranking: 58th - Quarter-final
2006 - Ranking: 14th - Quarter-final
2007 - Ranking: 16th -Champion
2008 - Ranking: 5th - Quarter-final
2009 - Ranking: 12th - Semifinal
2010 - Ranking: 17th - Second round
2011- Ranking: 7th - Champion
2012- Ranking: 5th - Champion
2013 - Ranking: 5th - Champion
2014 - Ranking: 3rd - Semifinal