Battle of the Champions at ASB Classic
The ASB Classic has signed the ATP’s Comeback Player of the Year Juan Martin del Potro.
Out of the game for nearly two years, forced to undergo three wrist operations and contemplating retirement Del Potro’s comeback has been the feel-good story for tennis in 2016. The Argentinian bottomed out at world no. 1,145 in February. He finishes the year an Olympic silver medallist, back in the winning circles at ATP level, Davis Cup champion and firmly back inside the world’s top 50.
On Monday, he capped his stellar year by inspiring Argentina to their first Davis Cup victory. Del Potro fought back from two sets down to beat world no. 6 Marin Cilic in five sets, and almost five hours, in what he called, one of the biggest wins of his career.
Since June, he has also beaten two current world number ones in Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, as well as Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal.
“His year has been incredible, especially to beat two current world number ones. He is back winning ATP tour titles and just steered Argentina to their first Davis Cup crown. It’s a hell of a comeback. He is the player that none of the big four want to draw in Melbourne,” said Tournament Director Karl Budge.
Del Potro has only come to Auckland once before in 2009. He came in as top seed and beat American Sam Querrey to win the title, the fifth of his career. It set him up for a stellar year, capped by beating Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer en route to winning 2009 US Open.
The 28-year-old has thundered back into prominence in recent months after two years sidelined with a wrist injury. He beat Djokovic and Nadal en route to an Olympic silver medal in August. A month later, in a five-set epic, Del Potro dealt world number one Andy Murray his first ever home Davis Cup singles defeat. He also won his first ATP title in nearly three years at the Stockholm Open in October. Del Potro has all the momentum in men’s tennis and is arguably the most threatening player coming into 2017.
“Juan Martin is the man of the moment and the bookies favourite for the title in Auckland. The fact he is unseeded and can land anywhere on the draw will be the talking point to see who he plays on Monday or Tuesday,” said Budge.
Davis Cup champion Argentina is well represented in the draw with the country’s top players coming to Auckland. Fresh off their inaugural Davis Cup victory, national hero Del Potro has compatriots Diego Schwartzman and Facundo Bagnis joining him.
In a coup for the tournament, every men’s winner since 2009 will be returning in 2017 in what is shaping up to be a battle of the champions. Bautista-Agut (2016), Jiri Vesely (2015), John Isner (2010, 2014), David Ferrer (2011, 2012, 2013) and Del Potro (2009) will all be fighting it out to reclaim the ASB Classic crown.
Auckland will also play host to a showdown between the United States and Spain.
Four of the top five players from each country are coming to Auckland with both countries dominating the seeds. Spain has the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th seeds in Roberto Bautista Agut, David Ferrer, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Feliciano Lopez. The United States has the 2nd, 4th and 7th seeds in John Isner, Jack Sock and Steve Johnson.
Roberto Bautista Agut leads the Spaniards at 14 in the world and is the ASB Classic defending champion. The 28-year-old defeated American Jack Sock in this year's final and went on to have his best year yet on tour. He clinched the Sofia Open in February for his fourth ATP title, reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and Roland Garros and beat Novak Djokovic to reach his first ATP Masters final in Shanghai. He is followed by David Ferrer who returns to Auckland for the 12th time. Ferrer sits alongside Australian great Roy Emerson with four Auckland titles (2007, 2011, 2012, 2013). The 34-year-old has won 26 ATP titles and amassed more than $30 million in prize money – the seventh highest of all time. They are joined by Spanish seeds Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Feliciano Lopez, who won his fifth ATP title at the Swiss Open and moved past Djokovic at February’s Dubai Open.
John Isner, a two-time ASB Classic champion, leads the Americans. He is one of the fastest servers in tennis, finishing with an ATP-best 1,159 aces this year. He is 19 in the rankings after reaching the final of the Paris Masters and had fourth round efforts at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Isner and this year’s finalist Jack Sock are the American one and two. Sock has had his best year on tour beating four top ten players and winning doubles gold at the Rio Olympics. They are joined by compatriots Steve Johnson and Taylor Fritz. In 2016, Johnson won his first ATP title in Nottingham which saw him claim a career high 21 in the world. 19-year-old Fritz is the youngest player in the top 100 and wasn’t born when Roger Federer played his first ATP tournament in 1997.
“It is one of the best fields we’ve ever had. We’ve got true star power in del Potro, 8 years of former champions and two of the most exciting youngesters on tour. It’s going to be a huge week for tennis in New Zealand,” said Budge.
The ASB Classic will span two weeks; the women's tournament commencing on January 2nd to 7th followed by the men’s tournament from January 9th to 14th. Tickets are available for purchase through Ticketek.
Full list of seeded players for the 2017 men’s classic:
1. Roberto Bautista Agut ESP (14)
2. John Isner USA (19)
3. David Ferrer ESP (21)
4. Jack Sock USA (23)
5. Albert Ramos-Vinolas ESP (27)
6. Feliciano Lopez ESP (28)
7. Steve Johnson USA (33)
8. Marcos Baghdatis CYP (36)
9. Juan Martin Del Potro ARG (38)
10. Joao Sousa POR (43)
11. Diego Schwartzman ARG (52)
12. Karen Khachanov RUS (53)
13. Stephane Robert FRA (54)
14. Jiri Vesely CZE (55)
15. Bagnis Facundo ARG (56)
16. Tommy Robredo ESP (57)
17. Malek Jaziri TUN (58)
18. Robin Haase NED (59)
19. Adrian Mannarino FRA (60)
20. Taylor Fritz USA (76)