Wellington: Four-time champion David Ferrer cruised through the opening round of the Auckland Classic on Tuesday but South Korea's Hyeon Chung suffered a stunning loss to local underdog Rubin "Jose" Statham.
Ferrer, 36, has retired from Grand Slams but the former World No 3 is making a few appearances at his favourite ATP tournaments in 2019, with Auckland first on the list.
The Spaniard brushed aside Dutchman Robin Haase 6-2, 6-1 to ease into the second round and must be regarded as a real chance of winning a record fifth title in this year's depleted Auckland field.
Defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut has pulled out of the event along with Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils, leaving top-seeded American John Isner as the main drawcard.
Ferrer said it felt special to contest a tournament that had meant a lot to him over the years.
"It's very exciting because it's the last one," he said. "The support of the people for me, it's very nice to play one more time again.
"These are going to be my last tournaments and I want to finish as late in them as possible."
Ferrer may have a rival as the Auckland crowd's sentimental favourite if Statham can maintain the form that saw him shock Chung.
A 31-year-old journeyman ranked 310 the world, Statham is only in the tournament because organisers threw him a late wildcard due to the high number of player withdrawals.
He was expected to be cannon fodder for Chung, the World No 25, who beat Novak Djokovic on the way to the semi-finals of last year's Australian Open.
But he came back from 5-1 down in the opening set to win 7-5, 6-3, rating it the biggest singles victory of his career.
"It's been 17 years as a professional and one of my better wins, if not my best win," Statham said. "I'm happy with the way I played and to start the year well."
The loss means Chung risks arriving in Melbourne short of match practice after also suffering a second-round defeat to Ernests Gulbis in Pune last week.
As top seed, Isner goes straight through to the second round and will begin his campaign on Wednesday, when he faces fellow American Taylor Fritz.
Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.
Updated Date: Jan 08, 2019 15:32:00 IST