Qualifiers Haase, De Bakker Paint ATP Auckland Orange
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
The qualifying competition for the men’s ASB Classic encountered a problem before proceedings got underway. Last week the organizers admitted that they was short of participants for the 16-player draw. Fortunately the crisis was resolved with the additional of five alternate players.
Headlining the field was world No.66 Robin Haase. 2016 is the fifth year that Haase has competed at the tournament but he has only been able to win one main draw match at the event (2011 against John Isner). In the first round of qualifying he faced American doubles specialist Eric Butorac. Despite playing in his first singles match since May, Butorac started the match well with a 3-1 lead before Haase battled back to win 6-4, 7-5 in less than an hour.
In the final round Haase faced fifth seed Duck-hee Lee. The South Korean enjoyed a easy first round encounter against Colombian doubles specialist Robert Farah Maksoud, winning 6-1, 6-2. Last year Hee claimed five Futures titles. Haase proved too strong for Lee as he won 6-1, 6-3, after only 45 minutes on the court.
Another Dutch triumph in Auckland occurred for Thiemo de Bakker. De Bakker opened up his campaign with a 6-2, 6-2, win over Australia’s Greg Jones. After grabbing his opening win, Bakker faced Croatian seventh seed Mate Pavic. Pavic defeated 2011 French Open doubles finalist Juan Sebastián Cabal (6-2, 6-4) in his opening match. It was a tough start to his final match after Bakker dropped the first set in exactly 30 minutes. Despite the slow start, the Dutchman battled back to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Bakker, who is a regular feature on the Challenger tour, will now be bidding to win his first main draw match on the ATP World Tour since the Rio Open in February last year.
World No.299 Matthew Barton will play in his first ATP World Tour main draw after his duo of triumphs. In the opening round Barton played Australian compatriot Artem Sitak. Sitak is a doubles specialist ranked 43rd in the world. Sitak proved troublesome for Barton during the first set before he dominated the second set to win 7-6(8), 6-0. It was expected that Barton would experience a tricky second match against second seed Denis Kudla. Kudla defeated Trey Huey in straight sets during his first match. Incredibly Barton trailed 2-0 at the start of the match before winning 12 consecutive games top stun the second seed 6-2, 6-0.
Finally Germany’s Benjamin Becker dropped only seven games during his qualifying campaign. In the first round, he dismissed alternative entrant Scott Lipsky 6-3, 6-1. Lipsky is best known for winning the 2011 French Open mixed doubles title with Casey Dellacqua. Then in the second round he played South African-born Brit Cameron Norrie. Norrie achieved a career ranking high of 637th in 2014. The inexperienced Brit was no match for Becker as the German took the match 6-1, 6-2, in under an hour.
First round matches for the qualifiers
Barton opens against American Steve Johnson, Haase has a winnable match against dirtballer Pablo Andujar, De Bakker faces another Spaniard, Albert Ramos, and Becker will face his countryman and Davis Cup teammate Philipp Kohlschreiber.