Tennis: 'Lucky loser' Statham misses out on big break

By Michael Burgess

Rubin Statham of NZ in action against Ryan Harrison of USA. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Rubin Statham of NZ in action against Ryan Harrison of USA. Photo / Jason Oxenham

For a few moments yesterday, Rubin Statham was touching the void.

The New Zealander, ranked world No447, had a chance to become the first male Kiwi since Brett Steven in 1999 to make the quarter-finals of the ASB Classic.

Statham got a surprise ticket into the second round, as a "lucky loser" after top seed Roberto Bautista-Agut pulled out with a stomach virus.

The Kiwi won the first set against world No54 Jiri Vesely. Statham had five break points in the second set but couldn't convert any of them and the 2015 champion Vesely eventually prevailed 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-3 in almost 2-hours.

"At this level, you don't get many chances," said Statham. "I stepped up when it counted in the first set and took that tiebreak.

"In his first service game [of the second set], I had break points, and his second service game, I had break points, and if you don't take your opportunities, you are not going to win the match."

Statham has had a rollercoaster week. He progressed to the final round of qualifying but lost to world No90 Ryan Harrison.

Despite being New Zealand's No1-ranked singles player, Statham then missed out on a wildcard at the expense of Michael Venus, whose performance against Feliciano Lopez justified the decision.

But fate dealt Statham an opportunity. After Bautista-Agut withdrew, Statham was the only one of the four eligible qualifiers (final round losers) to sign in yesterday morning.

"I was in Italy once playing and decided to sleep in instead of signing in," said Statham. "I learned my lesson there."

However, Statham won't receive any ranking points or prizemoney for his exploits yesterday.

A rule brought in by the ATP this year allows Bautista-Agut to claim the prizemoney for reaching the second round.

Statham endured a busy day. A few hours before he went on court against Vesely, he played his first round doubles match alongside compatriot Finn Tearney, losing 7-5, 7-5 to Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea.

- NZ Herald

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