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One Classic step more for Statham, Tearney

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/01/2017 Angelo Risso

Rubin Statham © Fiona Goodall/Getty Images Rubin Statham Kiwi tennis players Rubin Statham and Finn Tearney have put their ASB Classic main draw snub behind them by progressing through the qualifiers.

Statham, 29, and Tearney, 26, were overlooked by Classic organisers for a singles wild card in favour of Kiwi doubles expert Michael Venus.

German entertainer Dustin Brown was also handed a wild card, while Artem Sitak was automatically handed one by winning the New Zealand Championships.

As a result both Statham and Tearney were forced into the qualifying process, where they played Rhett Purcell and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi respectively.

Both triumphed on Saturday afternoon, with Statham cruising to a 7-6 (7-2), 6-0 win and Qureshi retiring injured in the third set.

They'll now go on to Sunday's second phase of qualifying, with Statham taking on American Ryan Harrison and Tearney playing the UK-based Cameron Norrie.

The winners of those ties will earn a spot in the Classic first round.

Earlier on Saturday, Classic director Karl Budge defended his decision to choose Venus, saying he was the best available home-grown player.

The 29-year-old Aucklander is ranked 32nd on his preferred doubles circuit but is also capable solo, making the second-round of the 2015 Classic.

He was the first Kiwi in 12 years to win a Classic match when he did so, defeating first-round French opponent Lucas Pouille in straight sets.

"Michael gives us our best opportunity of a Kiwi getting through the first round and we wanted to reward that," Classic director Karl Budge said.

"I think he's got a game that can win a match on centre court."

Tearney, ranked world No.494, was defeated by Sitak in the NZ Championships final last month, while the world No.461 Statham chose not to participate.

Budge said the pair knew full well what failure to snare victory in the Auckland tournament could entail.

"They had their opportunity," Budge said.

"We put a wild card up and if you want to come back and win that wild card, and take us out of the equation, you can."

In Sunday's other two second-round qualifiers, Steven Diez will play Brydan Klein and Michael Mmoh will tussle with Jerzy Janowicz.

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