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WELLINGTON (Reuters) - World number five David Ferrer will complete his Australian Open preparations by seeking a record-equalling fourth Auckland Open title, organisers have said.
Spaniard Ferrer, who has enjoyed his best year on the ATP tour by winning six titles on four different surfaces, has captured the past two titles in Auckland, which concludes two days before the year's first grand slam begins in Melbourne.
The 30-year-old also reached at least the last eight at all four grand slam tournaments this season, the first time he has achieved the feat in his 12-year professional career.
Ferrer, who has won 17 career titles, has a proud pedigree on the courts of New Zealand's largest city, winning three times in eight visits.
If he claims the title at next year's tournament that runs from January 7-12, he will join Australia's Roy Emerson as the only four-time winners of the title. Emerson won in 1960 and then again from 1965-67.
"That will be a special day in the tournament's history," tournament director Karl Budge said when announcing Ferrer's decision to defend his title and seek to join Emerson.
Ferrer could also become the second player, after Emerson, to win the title in three successive years.
New Zealand's Onny Parun also won three Auckland titles in 1973, 1975 and 1976. He was beaten in the 1974 final by Bjorn Borg.
Former world number seven Mardy Fish, who has reached three grand slam quarter-finals in his career, has also been confirmed in the draw for Auckland, having last played in 2007, where he lost to eventual winner Ferrer in the semi-finals.
"He's an all court player with a strong net game, which will certainly add variety to an event normally dominated by the baseliners," Budge added of Fish.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien