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David Ferrer is returning to
Auckland — and the possibility he
will become the greatest champion
Stanley St has seen adds an intriguing
storyline to the men’s edition of the
Ferrer was confirmed yesterday as a
late addition to next week’s field, after
his first round loss in Doha.
The world No 7 had requested an
Auckland wildcard after meetings
with tournament organisers at the
US Open, though it was agreed his
presence would depend on his Doha
The early exit in the Middle East
has facilitated his arrival — and
nothing would be more appropriate
than the 33-year-old becoming the
first man to win five singles titles in
Auckland. He shares the record of
four with legendary Australian Roy
Emerson, who won 12 grand slam
titles and was victorious in Auckland
in 1960, 1965, 1966 and 1967.
In a way, no one has done more
than Ferrer to put the Auckland ATP
event on the map over the past decade.
Other star names have come — and
thrilled the crowds — but nobody of
such pedigree has turned up so often,
and done so well.
He has also boosted the credibility
of the tournament in the locker room,
where opinions and perspectives
count for a lot. Three times he has
come here as world No 5, once as
world No 3. That kind of loyalty
speaks volumes among his peers.
His consistency has been
outstanding. Ferrer has been to
Auckland 10 times and only once
failed to make the quarter-finals, in
2010, when he was knocked out in
the second round by eventual finalist
Ferrer’s first visit was in 2003.
Ranked world No 58, he reached
the last eight before being knocked
out by compatriot Alberto Martins.
Ferrer won his first title four years
later, beating Gaston Gaudio and
Mardy Fish before trumping Tommy
Robredo in the final.
Ferrer then enjoyed an astonishing
period of dominance between 2011
and 2013, when he was unbeatable on
the Auckland hard courts, lifting the
trophy three times in a row.
Ferrer’s presence is also a huge
boost for the tournament, with an
unprecedented four players inside the
world top 12 ( Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 10,
John Isner 11, Kevin Anderson 12).
Kohlschreiber is also in town, as is
2009 finalist Sam Querrey. - N Z ME
In the context of what has happened so
far this week at the ASB Classic, today ’s
semi-final between Caroline Wozniacki
and Sloane Stephens feels like a genuine
Clash of the Titans.
With six seeds gone by Wednesday,
and three qualifiers reaching the last
eight, it has been a tournament of the
Today followed the script, with
fifth seed Stephens and world No 17
Wozniacki advancing past lesser-ranked
opponents to set up a marquee clash
in the last four. The other semi-final
between Tamira Paszek and Julia
Goerges struggles in comparison, though
Paszek’s story has been captivating.
It is hard to know what might unfold
tomorrow. Stephens has improved
steadily across the tournament, and
today ’s 7-6 (6) 6-3 win over Brit Naomi
Broady was her best performance of the
week. But after a wobbly start in the first
round, Wozniacki has been ruthless in
her last two matches, destroying solid
opponents with clinical tennis.
You could even detect some sympathy
among the Stanley Street crowd for
world No 69 Alexandra D ulgheru
in yesterday ’s quarter-final, as the
Romanian was given no chance to get a
foothold in the match, thrashed 6-1, 6-0
in 52 minutes. Wozniacki was hitting
lines at will, ser ved impeccably and
came up with some crushing returns in
a display characterised as a tennis lesson
by one television commentator.
Stephens’ match with Broady, who
has been at the centre of drama in
this tournament, first with a win over
Ivanovic, then with ‘Racquetgate’ on
Wednesday, was more of a contest.
For the third time this week, Broady
raised her level well beyond that of
a world No 122. She ser ved big, and
gained great profit at the net. In the key
moment of the first set tie-break, Broady
could not convert her second set point,
Stephens subsequently did and it was
downhill for the Englishwoman from
Wozniacki has an impeccable 5-0
record against Stephens, and has yet to
concede a set against the world No 30.
“I’ve played really well against her
tournament, and it’s never been easy
against her,” Wozniacki said. “Hopefully
I can keep my level of play.”
However, Stephens, after a career
marked by a swift rise which saw her
become the youngest teenager in the top
50 followed by something of a plateau,
appears to be entering the next phase.
Things turned in the second half of
2015. After losing four semi-finals, she
made her first final at the Citi Open —
and won it. Before that week, she had
not won any of her 84 tournaments,
which made her unique among the
top 30 players. “I won the 85th one,”
Stephens said. “At one point, it was
really bothering me but after a while, I
thought it is going to happen eventually,
I’m not going to go my whole entire
career and not win a tournament.”
In the other matches yesterday, Paszek
outlasted Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-7 (3),
6-3 in the first quarter-final, in a match
that stretched almost three hours. Then
Goerges prevailed over Japan’s Nao
Hibino 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-4 . Goerges, who
has been as high as No 15, always looked
the likely winner but took a while to get
Meanwhile, Danka Kovinic and
Barbora Strycova beat fifth seeds Anna-
Lena Groenefeld and Coco Vandeweghe
7-6 (5), 3-6, 10-6 in last night ’s late
doubles match and will face Marina
Erakovic and Spanish partner Silvia
Soler-Espinosa in today ’s semi-finals.
10 - Friday, January 8, 2016
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Wozniacki, Stephens set
up ‘clash of the titans’
Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniacki to face off in today’s ASB Classic semi-final.
Ferrer returning to Auckland
There was plenty of trademark
sweat, but no farewell tears as Lleyton
Hewitt ’s bid to land an elusive
Hopman Cup crown crash landed.
Hewitt needed to win his singles
match in straight sets against Ukraine’s
Alexandr Dolgopolov yesterday to
keep Australia Gold’s title hopes alive.
Aafter going a set and a break up,
Hewitt faded on the way to a 4-6, 6-3,
It followed on from Jarmila Wolfe’s
6-3, 6-3 loss to Elina Svitolina in the
women’s singles rubber.
Ukraine lost the mixed doubles
3-6, 7-5, 10-5 (match tie-break), but
the 2-1 tie win was enough to propel
them into tomorrow ’s final.
It also marked the end of Hewitt’s
representative career as a player.
Hewitt was making his eighth
appearance at the Hopman Cup,
but once again he will leave empty-
handed. Unlike all of his previous
exits, there will be no further chance
to atone in the future.
The 34-year-old will retire after this
month’s Australian Open, bringing
an end to one of the most decorated
careers in Australian tennis.
First, Hewitt will front up for the
Fast4 teams event in Sydney, which
also features Rafael Nadal and Nick
Hewitt will then head to Adelaide
for the World Tennis Challenge in
his final event before the Australian
The two-time grand slam champion
said he was not overcome by emotions
yesterday despite the Hopman Cup
being the final time he will play for
Australia in a teams event.
“The big picture is obviously the
Australian Open,” Hewitt said.
“That ’s where I want to be playing
my best tennis, and this week has been
the perfect preparation for that.
“I still feel like I can match it with
the best guys in the world out there.”
Hewitt’s greatest chance of landing
the Hopman Cup title — in 2002
was thwarted when he contracted
He was also a losing finalist in 2003
when beaten 3-0 by American duo
James Blake and Serena Williams.
In group B, Australia Green’s team
of Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova
are in the box seat to progress to
tomorrow ’s final after winning their
opening two ties against Germany
and Great Britain.
A win over France today will secure
their spot, but even a loss might get
them through, depending on other
Australia’s only Hopman Cup
title came back in 1999, when Mark
Philippoussis and Jelena Dokic took
out the crown, beating Swedish pair
Jonas Bjorkman and Asa Carlsson in
Hewitt beat world No 26 Jack Sock
7-5, 6-4 on Tuesday night, showing
he can still match it with top-30
He has not set out any public goals
for what he wants to achieve at the
He has vowed to give it his all in his
final month on the professional tour.
No tears as Hewitt’s Hopman Cup dream ends
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