Honours even in N. Zealand-S. Korea Davis Cup tie

South Korea's Hong Seong-Chan plays a shot during his Australian Open junior boy's singles final against Russia's Roman Safiullin in Melbourne on January 31, 2015

There were mixed fortunes for South Korea's young guns as they finished the opening day of a Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie level at 1-1 against hosts New Zealand.

The Koreans suffered a setback before the tie started when two top players pulled out, leaving 19-year olds Kwon Soon Woo and Hong Seong-Chan to shoulder the burden.

Hong appeared to be cruising at two sets up against Jose Statham in the opening rubber but faltered and began to suffer cramps as the marathon five-setter wore on.

He was eventually forced to retire early in the fifth, with Statham winning 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (8/6), 2-0.

Kwon Soon Woo was unfazed at the setback, disposing of Michael Venus in straight sets 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/1).

Statham said he relished the electric atmosphere at Auckland's ASB stadium.

"There's nothing better than being out here in front of your home crowd, home city, playing Davis Cup for your nation," he said.

"It's one of the most special matches I've had. Coming down from two sets down and going the distance to win in five took a lot of heart."

Doubles will be played on Saturday and reverse singles on Sunday.

The winner of the tie will remain in Asia/Oceania Group 1, while the loser faces a play-off later in the year to avoid relegation to group 2.