Aircel Chennai Open - Draw Preview and Analysis
World No. 6 Tomas Berdych leads a star-studded field at the Aircel Chennai Open, south Asia’s only ATP World Tour tennis event. Hosting the strongest draw since its inception, it also includes three other top 20 players – Janko Tipsarevic, and former winners Marin Cilic and Stanislas Wawrinka.
Top seed Berdych, who received a wild card into the tournament, earns a first round bye. He faces a potential second round clash with India’s Somdev Devvarman if the latter can see off Czech Jan Hajek. Devvarman had a dream run in this very tournament in 2009 when he reached the finals before finally losing out to Cilic. He is on a comeback trail after spending most of 2012 on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury. Berdych has a relatively easy route to the semis with the rest of his quarter featuring players who have had impressive victories on the Challenger circuit but are yet to emulate that on the ATP Tour level. Seventh seed Yen-Hsun Lu and Mathias Bachinger are the strongest amongst these with Lu having an impressive 2012 with three Challenger titles.
World No. 15 Marin Cilic heads the other section of the top half of the draw and is a heavy favorite to make it to the semis. Sergiy Stakhovsky may prove to be a tricky opponent in the second round but the Ukrainian has dropped out of the top 100 after being unable to build up on his impressive 2010 and 2011 seasons. Israeli Dudi Sela and the unpredictable Frenchman Benoit Paire are potential quarter finalists for Cilic. Sela made it to the quarter finals in last year’s edition but had a horrible end to his season as he failed to qualify for most events post the U.S. Open. Paire, seeded fifth, has risen to a career high ranking of 47, but hasn’t achieved much success yet on hard courts.
The bottom half of the draw reads similarly and Wawrinka should have little trouble on his path to the semi finals. Dutchman Igor Sijsling is the first hurdle that he faces and should he successfully overcome that, he should comfortably advance. Indian wildcard Yuki Bhambri is up against sixth seed Robin Haase and could cause an upset in the first round as Haase has lost the last 11 first round matches that he has played. Bhambri had a glittering career as a junior but hasn’t accomplished the same success after turning pro. He won his first ATP Challenger singles title last season at Uzbekistan and will hope to build on that.
Tipsarevic leads the bottom section of the draw and is looking to go one better than last year. He was on the losing side of a marathon three-set final last year which was eventually decided by three tie-breaks. He faces the winner of Edouard Roger-Vassellin and Andrey Kuznetsov in the second round to start off his campaign. Kuznetsov won multiple titles on clay at the Challengers level but Roger-Vassellin’s experience may prove too much for the 21-year old Russian. Eight seed Go Soeda has a lot of points to defend and is capable of pulling off a repeat of his previous year’s performance when he caused a major upset with a win over Wawrinka.
Other Indians in the fray:
Prakash Amritraj has made it to the final round of qualifying and will advance to the main draw if he can register a win over his British opponent, James Ward.
On the doubles front, N.Sriram Balaji /Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sanam Singh/Vishnu Vardhan have been awarded wild cards into the main draw. Mahesh Bhupati and Leander Paes are seeded first and second respectively with their partners in the doubles draw. Bhupati is teaming up with Canadian Daniel Nestor while his former partner Rohan Bopanna pairs up with Rajeev Ram for the upcoming season. Paes, who won this tournament last year with Tipsarevic, will be playing this event with Roger-Vassellin.