Doubles wildcard secures Monfils for Auckland
Gael Monfils has been given a doubles wild card to next month's ATP tournament in Auckland and will partner unknown Dorian Descloix.
The other wild card has been given to the British pairing of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins, meaning that New Zealanders have missed out.
Monfils is good friends with his French compatriot Descloix, who has a doubles ranking of 867 and asked tournament director Karl Budge if they could have a wild card, as Descloix's ranking is nowhere near good enough to make it in without one.
Budge had no problem agreeing to Monfils' request.
"When someone like Gael asks you that, you want to do everything you can to keep that relationship," Budge told Sunday News.
"Not only is he entertaining and it's fantastic for us to get double the value for our money from him by being able to put him on court in doubles as well.
"It also maintains that relationship with him, it's one that's becoming strong and hopefully it keeps us getting him to come back."
For the other wild card, Fleming will get the chance to defend his title from this year's tournament and do it with his regular partner Hutchins.
Hutchins was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma a year ago and having won the battle over cancer will be making an emotional return to the circuit next year.
"I often talk about winning the dressing room over and we would lose it very quickly if we didn't give our defending champion and his cancer victim partner the chance to come back," Budge said.
"While it's unfortunate [for the New Zealanders], it's a no-brainer decision for a tournament director.
"We've got to invest in those that invest in us and while it means we won't have a wild card for a local pair, it's something we do need to be doing to keep those relationships with the players."
While giving a wild card to Fleming and Hutchins will go down well in the locker room, it won't among the Kiwi tennis community, particularly as Michael Venus could do with some high-level competition before playing doubles at the Australian Open a week later.
Tennis NZ CEO Steve Johns said he understood why Budge made the call. "We would love to see Kiwis in the tournament, but we respect the individuality of the tournament director and the need for his role to be quite independent," Johns said.
Meanwhile, the doubles field for the women's Classic is set to feature some of the world's top 10 doubles players - Roberta Vinci (1), 2013 French Open champion, Katarina Srebotnik (6), and 2013 US Open champion, Andrea Hlaváčková (10) who will play with Lucie Šafářová (18).