Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Ferrer the gift that keeps on giving

David Ferrer has shown great loyalty to Auckland's ATP tournament throughout his career. Photo / Getty
David Ferrer has shown great loyalty to Auckland's ATP tournament throughout his career. Photo / Getty

For Auckland's ATP event, David Ferrer is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Spanish world No 8 began his 2016 campaign here with a 6-2 6-4 second round victory over Australian qualifier Matthew Barton. It was his 33rd match in Auckland; surely no one in the modern era, not even locals like Brett Steven or Kelly Evernden, have played more.

When Ferrer played here for the first time, John Key was an unknown MP for Helensville, John Mitchell was coach of the All Blacks and Marina Erakovic was an aspiring junior at Kohimarama tennis club.

That was in January 2003 and the 21-year-old Ferrer arrived as world No 58. He beat compatriot Alberto Martin in the first round, then surprised World No 17 Fernando Gonzalez before losing to Dominik Hbarty in the quarter finals.

"I remember when I played my first time here," said Ferrer. "It was another generation - it was all new for me, a new goal. Now I am more comfortable, positive, [calmer].

In 2003 I was more inconsistent, I preferred different things."

Since then Ferrer has lifted the trophy here four times, and reached the semi-finals on two other occasions. Auckland will always remain special for Ferrer; he won his first hard court title here and later that year (2007) cracked the top 10.

"I like this tournament a lot, obviously the people [here] enjoy their tennis and have fun," said Ferrer. " [I've been involved] in a tournament in Valencia and [Auckland] is a great example of how to make a good tournament."

Ferrer was happy with his work against Barton, who again lifted his level well beyond that of world No299. The Australian showed plenty of pluck - at one stage diving for a volley like he was on the grass courts of Wimbledon - but never really troubled the Spaniard.

"It was a good match for the first round," said Ferrer. "The court was fast and it is never easy. But I played consistent and without too many mistakes."

On Thursday Ferrer faces Czech Lukas Rosol, who trumped Benoit Paire 6-4 7-6 (5). Rosol has yet to beat Ferrer in five attempts - including a 2012 clash in Auckland - but the 33-year-old Spaniard remains cautious.

"Rosol is very aggressive," said Ferrer. "And very flat with his shots. I have to be consistent, aggressive and my first serve is very important."

Fourth seed Kevin Anderson also made a strong start to the ASB Classic, with a 7-6 (10-8) 7-6 (5) over resilient Dutchman Robin Haase.

"It was a tricky, tough match," said Anderson. "But I had much better rhythm by the end."

The South African served out a tough game at 5-6 to stay in the second set, then overcome a 1-4 deficit in the subsequent tiebreaker to seal his passage to the next round.

Importantly, he also reported his knee complaint, which he felt at last week's tournament in Chennai, has "settled down quickly".

Other second round winners included sixth seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut, Jack Sock, Rosol and Fabio Fognini.

Fognini was particularly impressive, demolishing solid Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker in just 47 minutes. The Italian lifted his his level from Tuesday, though De Bakker seemed to lose focus after the match was stopped for five minutes after a ballboy was led away with sunstroke.

The local highlight was Michael Venus and Croatian partner Mate Pavic progressing through to the quarter finals of the doubles, with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Chris Guccione and Andre Sa. Venus and Pavic always looked in control of the match, grabbing one break in the first set and two in the second.

- NZ Herald

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