There will be three New Zealanders in action in the ASB Classic singles this week, after Finn Tearney made local history today.
Tearney became the first Kiwi in almost a decade to win through qualifying at Stanley Street and joins wildcards Michael Venus and Artem Sitak in the main draw.
It's a big turnaround for Tearney, who was at one of the lowest ebbs in his career a few weeks ago. The 26-year-old had returned home for the New Zealand Championships, where he was top seed and the highest ranked player in the field. He progressed to the final, but with an ASB Classic wildcard on the line, bombed out in the decider, losing to Sitak 6-2 6-0.
"I was really down and out after [that] final," said Tearney. "I didn't play well and I knew I was a lot better than that. I wanted to play so well and sometimes I want to prove things to other people - but I don't need to. [Today] I just wanted to prove it to myself that I can play well here...so it's really big."
After getting past Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi yesterday, Tearney overwhelmed Cameron Norrie 6-1 6-3 today. Norrie, who grew up in New Zealand but has switched allegiance to Britain, was ranked almost 200 places higher than Tearney but struggled from the start. He was broken twice in the first set - and though it was a closer contest in the second - Tearney held his nerve to see out the match in 55 minutes.
"That is the way I want to play - more aggressive," said Tearney. "I did that and it came off. That's how I see myself going forward and I would rather play that way."
Tearney is the first Kiwi to come through qualifying in Auckland since GD Jones in 2008, who won through three rounds, including a memorable match with Alberto Brizzi on centrecourt.
Tearney will face world No 59 Robin Haase tomorrow afternoon. The Dutchman is a solid rather than spectacular player, who has been in the top 100 for the last seven years. He will be a tough opponent for Tearney, who didn't face anyone inside ranked higher than 130 last year.
Venus will face world No 28 Feliciano Lopez in tomorrow's opening round. Two years ago Venus beat Colombian Alejandro Gonzalez on an electric night in Auckland, the first win by a New Zealander over an overseas player at the ASB Classic in more than a decade.
Last year Venus acquitted himself well - pushing world No18 Benoit Paire in two tight sets - but tomorrow's match against the fifth seed will be equally tough.
Lopez has been overshadowed by the Spanish armarda of Rafa Nadal, David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco but has an impressive record. He is about to commence his 21st year on tour, and has appeared at 59 consecutive grand slams, the longest running ongoing streak. Lopez has reached the last eight at Majors on four occasions and was ranked as high as No 12 in 2015.
Venus barely played singles in 2016 - just three tournaments and a total of eight matches - as he focused on his doubles career, winning four titles and reaching No32 in the world.
He has the weapons - especially his serve and forehand - to trouble Lopez but staying with the pace and adjusting to singles will be a huge challenge.
In other qualifying matches today Kiwi Rubin Statham fought hard but lost 6-4 6-1 to world No 90 Ryan Harrison while 18-year-old American Michael Mmoh beat former Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz 7-6 (3) 6-3 in a high quality match.