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Venus, Brown wild cards for Classic

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/01/2017 Angelo Risso
Michael Venus © Getty Michael Venus

Kiwi doubles player Michael Venus and German entertainer Dustin Brown have been lined up as wild cards for the men's ASB Classic singles event.

With the third wild card already handed to New Zealand Championship winner Artem Sitak, organisers have banked on the Aucklander to keep home crowds entertained.

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

He was the first Kiwi in 12 years to win a Classic match when he did so, defeating Frenchman Lucas Pouille in straight sets before falling to Alejandro Gonzalez.

"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 Mike's our best singles player, he's shown that over the last two years."

However Venus's mission has been made that much harder by an unkind draw, playing Spanish sixth-seed Feliciano Lopez in the first round.

The winner of that match will go on to clash with either Sitak or French world No.69 Jeremy Chardy in the second round.

"Lopez is a very solid player so that'll certainly be a centre court match, but Michael's got a game, particularly on fast courts, that can play well," Budge said.

"He's a guy that's done it before for us, I don't think there's been a better atmosphere on centre court in my time here than the night Michael won."

Brown, meanwhile, was chosen for his unique playing style and unpredictability, having defeated Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon two years ago.

The 32-year-old, famous for his dreadlocks, is ranked 72nd in the world and will play either Cypriot gun Marcos Baghdatis or ex-finalist Adrian Mannarino in the second round.

"He's one of the more flamboyant characters on tour, a little bit Gael Monfils-esque, if you like," Budge said.

"The guy plays extraordinary shots and I think he'll light up centre court."

Elsewhere in the draw, top seed Roberto Bautista-Agut will play Argentine compatriot Horacio Zeballos or 2015 champion Jiri Vesely in the second round.

Big-hitting second seed John Isner will take on either Diego Schwartzman or Malek Jaziri, while veteran David Ferrer is likely to play Robin Haase.

Fourth-seeded American Jack Sock will likely face Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

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