Tennis: Mixed news for Kiwis in men's draw

By Kris Shannon

Michael Venus' Heineken Open win last year was cheered wildly. Photo / photosport.nz
Michael Venus' Heineken Open win last year was cheered wildly. Photo / photosport.nz

The Kiwis have received mixed news ahead of the men's ASB Classic, with today's draw leaving Finn Tearney and Michael Venus at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.

For Tearney, the New Zealand No1, there was the boon of being handed one of the best possible draws he could have received, though he will still be a rank outsider against American Donald Young.

Venus, on the other hand, was given the worst match-up available in a first round featuring byes for the top four seeds, being drawn against fifth-seeded Frenchman Benoit Paire.

The draw set up a number of intriguing match-ups for the opening two days of the tournament, perhaps unsurprising for a field in which all eight seeds sit inside the world's top 25.

The clash between defending champion Jiri Vesely and eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut is probably the pick of the first round, with tournament director Karl Budge saying the match could have easily been a semifinal at last year's tournament.

Tearney, a wildcard, at least avoided one of those names but he would still be left reliant on an off day from Young to advance beyond the opening stages of his home tournament.

While Tearney rose more than 1000 places to world No363 in 2015, much of his good work was accomplished on the Futures Tour and, in Young, he faces an opponent who reached the fourth round of last year's US Open.

Venus, meanwhile, will need to progress past the 19th-ranked Paire if he wishes to repeat last year's first-round win, but Budge remains hopeful for the Kiwi pair.

"Tearney and Young will be well-matched," Budge said. "Young is kind of like the more progressed version of Tearney - they're both similar in their approach, they're fighters and grafters and they'll rely on getting a lot of balls back, so that might be a three-hour match out on centre court. It'll be a tough match but that's not a terrible draw for Finn.

"For Mike, both of those two are pretty similar. Paire is your quintessential French sportsperson - he can be absolutely amazing on his day, and then on other days you sort of think, 'where was that brilliance from last week?' That presents an opportunity for Mike."

Former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber would have been one man disappointed with today's draw. The German has advanced to at least the quarter-finals in all but one of his 10 trips to Auckland but, after tackling in qualifier in round one, will run straight into second seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Top seed David Ferrer will face the winner of Steve Johnson's clash with a qualifier, while third seed John Isner may be set for a big-serving showdown against fellow American Sam Querrey.

Budge believed four-time champion Ferrer held slight favouritism ahead of Tsonga and Isner but, after what happened this week in the women's tournament, he warned against complacency.

"It's the beauty of tennis and the beauty of sport in general _ shocks happen."

Draw for the first round of the men's singles at the ASB Classic:

[1] [WC] David Ferrer (ESP) bye
Steve Johnson (USA) vs qualifier
Lukas Rosol (CZE) vs Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP)
[WC] Michael Venus (NZL) vs [5] Benoit Paire (FRA)
[4] Kevin Anderson (RSA) bye
Qualifier vs Pablo Andujar (ESP)
Victor Estrella Burgos (DOM) vs Jack Sock (USA)
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) vs [7] Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
[8] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs Jiri Vesely (CZE)
Donald Young (USA) vs [WC] Finn Tearney (NZL)
Aljaz Bedene (GBR) vs Sam Querrey (USA)
[3] John Isner (USA) bye
[6] Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs Joao Sousa (POR)
Qualifier vs Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) vs qualifier
[2] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) bye

- NZ Herald

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