The modern day king of Stanley Street is returning to the ASB Classic for one last hurrah.

Four-time champion David Ferrer, who has become one of the most popular foreign players in the history of the Auckland men's tournament, will play the event next month as part of a mini-farewell tour of his favourite ATP events.

The Spaniard has already retired from grand slams and won't contest next month's Australian Open but is still making the trip from Europe to New Zealand.

The 36-year-old has been given a main draw wildcard for the ASB Classic, one of a handful of tournaments he will play in 2019 before he hangs up his racquet after the Madrid Masters in May.


Ferrer isn't quite the player he was. For so long a regular in the top 10, he's slipped down the rankings in the past six months and now sits at 126.

But Ferrer has done more for the Auckland ATP event, especially in the past decade, than any other player.

He kept returning year after year, even when, as one of the top five players in the world, there were greater opportunities and bigger pay cheques available. His ongoing presence gave the tournament greater credibility in the locker room and helped attract other top talent.

And most importantly, Ferrer always delivered on court. His matches - due to the nature of his retrieving game and never-say-die attitude - were always entertaining and Ferrer took his responsibility of one of the top seeds seriously.

While other players have been guilty of not always bringing their best efforts to Auckland, not wanting to take risks before the Australian Open, that's never been Ferrer's way.

He scraps for every point and his emotion after losing to Jack Sock in their 2016 semifinal was clear to all who witnessed it.

Ferrer has an unparalleled Auckland record. His four titles (2007, 2011-13) are matched only by Roy Emerson and he has also reached the semifinals on four other occasions.

For a period, he was unbeatable in the Queen City, winning 14 consecutive matches from 2011 to 2014.

In 13 visits to Auckland, he has dipped out before the quarter-finals only twice (2010 and 2017).

This year was a struggle for Ferrer. He rolled back the years in Auckland, beating Hyeon Chung in the quarter-finals before losing to Juan Martin Del Potro in the semifinals. He made the third round in Miami and Indian Wells (again ousted by Del Potro) and was still in the top 40 as recently as July. But he has played only four ATP level tournaments since then, which has seen his ranking dive.

That won't matter in January. Ferrer is notoriously competitive and the seeds will want to avoid him as he takes his final bow in Auckland.

"It's incredibly rare in the modern era of professional sport to encounter the loyalty David has shown," said ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge. "He's had big offers from other places but still turned up year after year and has done so much for this event. It will be special to have him back one last time."