Michael Venus couldn't repeat his heroics of 2015 at Auckland's ATP event, but again made light of a huge rankings disparity.

The New Zealand wildcard was ranked more than 600 places below world No19 Benoit Paire but you wouldn't have known in a gripping encounter on Tuesday night.

Venus lost 6-4 7-6 (4) but pushed the Frenchman in an impressive display. Paire is a laconic character but an immense talent.

The 26-year-old grabbed one of his two break opportunities, whereas Venus couldn't convert any of his five chances - including a set point in the second set - on the Paire serve.

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"I gave myself some chances but I was unable to capitalise on a couple of opportunities I had," said a downcast Venus after the match.

"I'm quite disappointed in the result. I went out there wanting to win. But if you look at the grand scheme of things it shows me again the level I am able to play at so I guess that is a positive."

Venus now turns his attention to doubles. The 28-year-old and partner Mate Pavic face Australian Chris Guccione and Brazil Andre Sa in the first round on Wednesday.