Greatest players to grace the ASB Classic

  • 30/11/2016
Tennis great Roger Federer back in 2000, the year he played in Auckland (Getty file)
Tennis great Roger Federer back in 2000, the year he played in Auckland (Getty file)

By John McNeill

This time last week, Karl Budge had no idea that Argentine tennis star Juan Martin del Potro would be playing the 2017 ASB Classic.

The Auckland tournament director only managed to swing a deal with del Potro's manager-father on Saturday, two days before his Davis Cup heroics for Argentina.

Del Potro set up a famous first ever Davis Cup victory for his country by winning a marathon reverse singles match in five sets against Croatian Marin Cilic.

Suddenly, the whole tennis world was again acknowledging the 28-year old, who this year has risen from 1145 in the world in February to number 38, winning Olympic silver and another ATP Tour title in between.

Del Potro's one of five former winners set to play in Auckland in January.

In fact, every winner from del Potro in 2009 through to this year's champion will be trying again at Stanley Street.

The others are - David Ferrer (2007, 2011, 2012, 2013), John Isner (2010, 2014), Jiri Vesely (2015) and Roberto Bautista-Agut (2016).

Bautista-Agut, Isner and Ferrer are the top three seeds for next year's event, while del Potro and Vesely won't be seeded.

The Auckland tournament has a long history of attracting some of the greatest names in world tennis. 

Here are five of them:

Roger Federer

As a 19-year old, he played the 2000 tournament out on court six on the opening day, and lost 6-4 6-4 to Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Of course he's now the owner of 17 Grand Slam titles.

Auckland remains the only tournament he's played in and never won a match.

Hopefully, he'll rectify that before he retires.

Andy Murray

Greatest players to grace the ASB Classic

Made a brief appearance in 2006, got as far as the second round before being knocked out by eventual losing finalist, Croatian Mario Ancic.

Murray went on to win his first title that same year and in 2016 celebrated his biggest haul of nine tournament wins in a season, including Wimbledon and Olympic gold.

He was also crowned world number one for the first time and retained the year end ranking.

Bjorn Borg

The 'Iceman' featured as an 18-year-old in the 1974 tournament in his one and only appearance, beating kiwi star Onny Parun over three sets in the final.

He went on to collect 11 Grand Slam titles (six in Paris and five straight at Wimbledon) before his shock retirement at the age of 26. 

Greatest players to grace the ASB Classic

Rod Laver

At the age of 23, he won the 1961 tournament, beating fellow Aussie Roy Emerson in five sets.

He also finished runner-up to Tony Roche in 1969.

Among his many outstanding deeds on the tennis court, the player dubbed 'The Rocket' won 11 majors, achieving two calendar year Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969.

He helped Australia win five Davis Cups and also became the first tennis player to crack the million dollar mark in prize money.

Roy Emerson

Won his first title in Auckland in 1960 at the age of 24 and won three more in succession between 1965 and 1967.

He now shares the record of four tournament wins with Spaniard David Ferrer.

Emerson claimed 12 Grand Slam singles titles and 16 in doubles during his heyday, and is still the only man to win the singles and doubles titles at all four majors. 

He also featured in eight winning Davis Cup teams. 

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