David Ferrer has owned the Heineken Open for the past three years and Robbie Koenig, the voice of the ATP, says he can win it again.
Koenig, who is part of the Sky TV commentary team next week, travels the world calling men's tennis matches so there are few people better placed to opine about who do well this week in Auckland.
Speaking from Doha, where he's been watching a number of the players who are heading to Auckland, he said that while Ferrer had a disappointing tournament, it is significant that he has history in New Zealand.
Ferrer has just split with his coach for 15 years, Javier Piles, and Doha was his first tournament with new coach Jose Altur.
"I watched David lose early to Daniel Brands here in Doha. With a new coach it will be interesting to see how the first couple of events go for him," Koenig said.
"Brands played his lights out, so it's difficult to gauge so early on how David's playing.
"Whenever players return to places of former glory, you often see them repeat good results," he added.
"There is that feel good factor for him every time he comes to Auckland and we'll see him perform really well, I wouldn't be surprised if we see him do it again.
"But it is nice to see Gael Monfils playing really well," he added.
"I was sitting court side for his match against Brands (in the quarterfinals) and the way he played, it was 10 out of 10 tennis.
"Brands played well and a similar level to how he played against Ferrer, but Monfils was too good in every department.
"Gael is also playing with a hunger, so it will be good if Gael can play well in Auckland too."
Monfils, who beat Tommy Haas in a stunning match at this tournament last year, is one of the most exciting players to watch and he can pull out shots that other players wouldn't even think of.
But there are other times when he gives out the impression that being on a tennis court is the last place in the world where he'd like to be.
"That is frustrating if you're a Monfils fan, but his body language and everything looks really good at the start of the year," Koenig said.
"I haven't spoken to him, but it looks like he's really enjoying his tennis at the moment.
"He has fallen out of love with the game on a few occasions, he goes AWOL, changes his mobile number, doesn't tell anybody, doesn't want to be contacted and pulls out of tournaments.
"So I just get the feeling that if he stays injury free, he could sneak back into the top 10 again."
One of the other big draw cards for the tournament this year is the 2010 champion, John Isner who is at 14 in the world rankings.
However, while that's high Koenig said if he wants to make it back inside the top 10, he needs to win more matches on foreign soil.
"One of the problems for John has been playing good, consistent tennis away from the USA," Koenig said.
"If you look at the ranking points he's been able to accumulate, 80 per cent of those points from the States.
"Playing away from home is something he needs to improve on it he wants to be a challenger and that needs to be something that's high on his priority list.
"He is coming back to a place where he's had former glory and that's big for the guy."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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