Evergreen look to Heineken Open seeds
The oldies are the goodies for next year's Heineken Open men's tournament in Auckland, with three of the top six seeds all on the wrong side of 30 and a fourth knocking on the door.
All told, new tournament director Karl Budge has managed to retain a high-level field for the event, headed again by defending champion and world No 5 David Ferrer of Spain.
But with Ferrer now 30, star late addition Tommy Haas of Germany a not-so-spritely 34 and sixth seed Jurgen Melzer of Austria now 31, there is definitely a Dad's Army look about the top end of the field for January's annual summer showcase.
Throw in tournament regular and second seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, the world No 20, who is now 29, and you have a seasoned group looking like they'll lead the charge in Auckland.
The only disappointment in the draw is the absence former world No 7 Mardy Fish. The current world No 27 was confirmed for Auckland along with Ferrer at the start of the month but has pulled out due to ongoing heart issues. He will also miss the year's first slam, the Australian Open.
Haas, a former world No 2, was last night unveiled as the high-profile new addition to the field, and Budge hailed the rejuvenated German as a player to watch on the back of his 2012 heroics that saw him rocket from outside the top 200 to No 21 in the world.
"Tommy is showing, like Ferrer and [Roger] Federer, that age is no barrier," said Budge last night.
"To get to 21 in the world is a great feat. And Kohlschreiber has had his best year on tour reaching No 16 in the world.
"He comes back for his ninth Heineken Open playing his best tennis yet."
Budge was rapt to have a player of the quality of Ferrer, who has had arguably the best year of his career.
"I don't need to say much more about Ferrer beyond stating that he won more titles than any other player on tour this year with a career-best seven."
But the new tournament director says it's not all about the older brigade, and some of the sport's rising stars are also ready to press their claims. "I suspect that the world's top newcomer, Martin Klizan [of Slovakia], and the Paris Masters giant killer Jerzy Janowicz [of Poland], will add plenty of young fire to the contest."
Ferrer, Kohlschreiber and Haas will be the top three seeds, with 25-year-old American Sam Querrey, a finalist in 2009, rounding out the top four.
Haas has won 13 titles throughout a distinguished career and made four Grand Slam semifinals, while Querrey, on his fourth visit to Auckland, is fresh off a victory over world No 1 Novak Djokovic at last month's Paris Masters.
Poland's Janowicz (world No 26) and Austria's Melzer (29) round out the top six, while ATP newcomer of the year Klizan (30) will be seventh seed.
Meanwhile, Budge confirmed BMW would replace Kia as the official vehicle partner of Auckland's two premier tennis tournaments.
Heineken Open full field (with world ranking): 5 David Ferrer (Spain), 20 Philipp Kohlschreiber (Germany), 21 Tommy Haas (Germany), 22 Sam Querrey (USA), 26 Jerzy Janowicz (Poland), 29 Jurgen Melzer (Austria), 30 Martin Klizan (Slovakia),33 Thomaz Bellucci (Brazil), 46 David Goffin (Belgium), 47 Benoit Paire (France), 50 Albert Ramos (Spain), 51 Lukas Lacko (Slovakia), 54 Alejando Falla (Colombia), 55 Grega Zemlja (Slovenia), 56 Robin Haase (Netherlands), 57 Santiago Giraldo (Colombia), 59 Yen-Hsun Lu (Chinese Taipei), 60 Go Soeda (Japan), 61 Brian Baker (USA). Plus 2 wildcards TBC.