The ASB Classic lost its first seeded player Tuesday when fifth-seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinola was beaten 6-1, 7-5 in the first round by close friend and training partner Joao Sousa.
Ramos-Vinola, ranked 27, and Portugal's Sousa, ranked 44, are both based in Barcelona and are supporters of the city's rival football clubs and Sousa described their match as "a kind of a derby."
"On court we are no friends but off court we are," he said.
Ramos-Vinola's main weapon is his powerful forehand but he lacked accuracy in his first match of the season, missing too many easy points in the first set and making 18 unforced errors to Sousa's eight. He dropped serve in the fourth game and again in the sixth to lose the first set in 32 minutes.
Sousa played confidently and moved well, dashing to the net and running around the ball to hit 73 percent of shots from the forehand.
He broke Ramos-Vinola in the first game of the second set and led 3-1 before the Spaniard finally began to find his range. He broke back in the sixth game and seemed ready to take the match to a third set when he faltered in the 11th game, conceding serve at 6-5.
Sousa held serve comfortably to take the set in 54 minutes.
"I think in the first set I was playing very good tennis, a great level," Sousa said. "The second set I was keeping the level up, then he started to play a little bit better and I had to come back.
"But it was good for me. I think I played a great match and I'm really happy to be in the second round finally here.
"I practice a lot with him at home and I'm very happy that I won against him because he's a very good player."