Action on and off the court at the ASB Classic

Fans during the ASB Classic ATP Men's Tournament. - Photo: PhotoSport

The action is all on the Stanley Street court at the ASB Classic, but Jamie Wall finds there also is plenty of ambience, atmosphere and amenities surrounding the actual tennis.

Stanley Street was sundrenched, and packed, on a perfect Auckland day yesterday.

It was the tournament's best crowd in the fortnight so far, despite the nightmare scenario of four guys withdrawing on the same day. The much hyped 'best draw ever' was in danger of becoming a punchline as Andrey Rublev, Kyle Edmund, Ryan Harrison and Guido Pella all pulled the pin for various reasons.

It meant ATP boss Chris Kermode had to admit it was a 'bad look' and he was probably secretly wishing he'd arrived in Auckland a day earlier for his visit to the tournament. However, it wasn't all bad from a man who spends about 40 weeks of his year making appearances at the worldwide ATP sites.

Read more from Jamie Wall at the ASB Classic:

Kermode also talked about the Auckland tournament and how special it was. How it's pretty unique - from the lovely backdrop of the Domain to the increasingly high quality fields it can draw.

He's not kidding, either. The amenities around centre court really are something else, especially to someone who is used to soggy chips and plastic bottle beer at Eden Park. The hospitality area out the back has expanded steadily in the last few years, with cold, glass bottle beer, champagne and a myriad of food options available in a comfy seating arrangement.

Yes, like Eden Park (and everywhere else) it's horribly overpriced - the gourmet hot dogs are good, but not $14 good. But for ambience it's second to none, with the hospitality area serving as a beautiful little backdrop for the ageing stadium. There are reassuringly expensive brand sponsor tents, all full of folks with reassuringly expensive attire.

Sam Cane was hanging around in the Moet Chandon tent, wearing something resembling a boy scout hat. If it had the intention of hiding him from the public when he made his way to a courtside corporate box then it badly backfired, given that it was ridiculous and did nothing to disguise his immediately recognisable frame. As a fashion statement it was bold, though - especially for a sometime All Black captain.

I caught up with David Ferrer in the same tent, after he'd finished smiling his way through a game of air hockey for the TV cameras. The Spaniard is 35 now, every inch the tour veteran. After spending a good few years in the top 15, he's now got a ranking of 37. He told me: "I feel different ... my goal now is to enjoy every week that I play. I know I will probably not be top 10 again, but I still have motivation. That is the most important.

"I have done this sport all of my life. After I finish I will have another lap of life, to spend with my family. I travel a lot in my career, it's my 18th season. I have no fear of when I will finish. I am a very lucky person to do a job that I enjoy. Tennis has given me everything."

Ferrer has every reason to feel good. He's won this tournament four times and everyone here loves him. It'd be a long shot if he were to make it five, but he's already banked almost $43m in career earnings. Spending time goofing around in a champagne tent as part of his job means he's got a better gig than most, and he knows it.

The crowd that flocked in for the evening session was treated to a three set thriller between Hyeon Chung of Korea and the nominally determinative dream Tennys Sandgren - from, and this is no joke: Tennessee. That was followed by the gaudily dressed pairing of Artem Sitak and Wesley Koolhof losing to Michael Venus and Raven Klaasen.

So a good evening, both weather and tennis-wise. Sandgren was one of the replacement players for the guys who withdrew, so at least it showed that the system can still accommodate for such situations.

Besides, the bubbles were flowing and the sun was out - which is all most people heading along wanted anyway.


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