New Zealand’s top two tennis players, Dan King-Turner and Rubin Statham, are expecting few surprises from the other side of the net when the Heineken Open begins in Auckland tomorrow.
The two wildcards have avoided the big guns in the first round of the ATP Tour event and will instead face each other.
Statham will also have New Zealand opposition in his opening doubles match, after he and brother Oliver were drawn to meet compatriot Marcus Daniell and Romania’s Horia Tecau in another clash between wildcards.
King-Turner said getting Statham in the singles was unexpected and “pretty funny”.
It also meant they wouldn’t have to spend a lot of their prematch preparation working out their adversary’s strength and weaknesses.
“I’m going to focus on what I’m doing and I’m sure he’s going to focus on what he’s doing,” he said.
“We know each other’s game and I don’t think there are going to be any surprises out there.”
The winner will also avoid one of the top seeds in the second round, but will face either No 8 seed Albert Montanes, of Spain, or a qualifier.
King-Turner, whose present world ranking is 257, will be making his fifth appearance in the Open’s main draw. Statham, ranked 331, will be making his third.
Neither has gone beyond the first round before.
The last New Zealander to achieve that feat was Mark Nielsen, who beat Swede Andreas Vinciguerra in straight sets in 2002, before losing to Swiss Michel Kratochvil.
King-Turner said it would definitely be different playing Statham rather someone in the top 50, when his attitude would be one of having nothing to lose.
“We’ll be going out there both thinking we have a chance to win, so definitely the mentality is a bit different.”
Statham was also surprised by the draw, and he believed whoever progressed would have “pretty promising” prospects in the second round.
He played Montanes in Auckland two years ago, when his opponent was also seeded eighth, and lost 6-4 6-4.
He said he and King-Turner had been practising together over the past week, but they hadn’t had a competitive match against each other for about two years and their head-to-head record was about even.
World No 16 Tommy Robredo leads the tournament field in which the top four seeds are all Spanish.
Seeded immediately behind Robredo are 2007 winner David Ferrer, former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero and Nicolas Almagro.
Among the unseeded drawcards are Argentine David Nalbandian, a former world No 3 and Wimbledon finalist, who has chosen come to Auckland rather than defend his title in Sydney.
Originally given a wildcard, Nalbandian got in as the last direct acceptance because of withdrawals.
His wildcard had gone to Frenchman Sebastian Grosjean, a former world No 4 who has battled injury in recent years and has a present ranking in the 600s.
Meanwhile, none of the three New Zealanders in action in qualifying today — Logan MacKenzie, Oliver Statham or Daniell — made it through to tomorrow’s final round.