ATP president defends player withdrawals from ASB Classic

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Tennis fans could be forgiven for feeling short-changed at the ASB Classic, with a number of players withdrawing without hitting a ball, but one of the sport's bosses has backed the players.

New Zealand's Michael Venus in action during his first round singles match on opening day at the ASB Classic. ATP Mens Tennis Tournament. ASB Tennis Centre, Auckland, New Zealand. Monday 9 January 2017. © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

New Zealand's Michael Venus in action during his first round singles match on opening day at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

Source: Photosport

Russian sixth seed Andrey Rublev, Argentine Guido Pella, Britain's Kyle Edmund and American Ryan Harrison all pulled out before the first round in Auckland.

Harrison cited fatigue after contesting the Brisbane International final on Sunday, while Rublev and Edmund also went deep into their tournaments last week.

By flying to Auckland, they were able to collect their first-round fees while also avoiding being fined by the ATP.

Cynics argued they were also able to rest up ahead of the Australian Open.

But ATP chair and president Chris Kermode said tennis was a demanding sport and he believed the players had genuine reasons.

"Yeah, I do," he said, adding he had just made a 30-hour journey to get to New Zealand.

"I don't think anyone would travel this far [to pull out]...because once you're here it's easier to play. The concern would be if they pull out having not made the effort to come here."

The withdrawals meant "lucky losers" from the last round of qualifying filled the vacant spots.

As a result, five of the eight centre court slots yesterday were filled by lucky losers or wild cards.

Kermode praised the intimate atmosphere at the Classic, saying it reminded of the Queen's Club in London.

But he warned the stadia needed updating if the Classic was to retain its place on the ATP Tour calender.

"The infrastructure for the fan experience is brilliant, (but) the actual building probably needs a bit updating for it to retain its world relevance."

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