Safe start for Auckland defending champ Sandgren

WELLINGTON (AFP) – Defending champion Tennys Sandgren cruised through to the second round of the ATP Auckland Classic yesterday, but there will be no repeat of last year’s final after Cameron Norrie made an early exit.

Sandgren, unseeded this year, beat doubles specialist and local hope Michael Venus 6-4, 6-3, serving up 15 aces along the way.

It put him through to a second round match-up with fellow American and tournament fourth seed John Isner, who arrived in New Zealand after a disappointing week at the ATP Cup in Perth where he lost all three matches to Casper Ruud, Daniil Medvedev and Fabio Fognini.

“I’ve got to put that behind me, hope to play well here and of course at the Australian Open,” said Isner who, like Sandgren, won his first ATP title in Auckland. “Throughout my career I’ve come here a lot, I’ve played some great tennis here and I’m looking forward to hopefully playing some good tennis again.”

Norrie, ranked 16 places ahead of Sandgren at 52, stayed with qualifier Thiago Monterio until the tie-break in the first set before he started to run out of steam with the Brazilian winning 7-6 (7/3), 6-2.

Tournament fifth seed Benoit Paire did not fail to entertain as he beat last year’s ATP newcomer of the year, Jannik Sinner of Italy.

The unpredictable Frenchman produced two code violations, a point deduction and an impressive shot between the legs along with 11 aces on his way to overcoming Sinner 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

While pleased with the win, Paire said he had no doubt the 18-year-old Sinner, currently ranked number 78, was destined for the top.

“I’m very happy to beat Jannik. I know he is going to be one of the top 10 players very soon,” Paire said.

“I know next time he’s going to beat me for sure.”

In 2019, Sinner became the youngest player to finish in the top 80 since a 17-year-old Rafael Nadal ended 2003 at number 47.

The only other seed in action on day one, sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Tennys Sandgren of the United States. PHOTO: XINHUA