As the 2020 Australian Open comes to a close, the tennis action will come thick and fast this February, with the usual four-week Golden Swing kicking off in South America.
There will be a handful of other tournaments in both the ATP and WTA tours taking place simultaneously in various parts of the continents this month including the Maharashtra Open in India, and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in the United Arab Emirates.
However, the focus in the first week of February will certainly be on the Cordoba Open, which in its second edition as an ATP 250 event, has attracted some of the best players in the world.
The tournament became synonymous with one of the biggest underdog stories during the 2019 season, when the relatively unknown Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero won his maiden tour-level match of his career and sensationally went all the way to lift his first and thus far only ATP title in his home country.
Londero, now returning as the defending champion twelve months on from the greatest week of his life - and fresh from guiding Team Argentina to the last eight of the ATP Cup - will face stiff competition to retain his title in the first clay-court tournament of the season.
Top Half: Top seed Schwartzman Returns To Argentina
Diego Schwartzman is the top seed in Cordoba and will be making his second return to the city after being eliminated in the last eight last year. The 27-year-old is in the same half of the draw as the defending champion Londero. However, due to a superior ranking, Schwartzman has a bye in the first round and could meet the graduate of the Rafael Nadal Academy, Jaume Munar in the second round. Assuming Schwartzman navigates his way into the quarters, he will be favorite to knock out Albert Ramos Vinolas, the highest seeded player he could meet before the semifinal.
Londero will start his title defense against Marco Cecchinato, but it will be intriguing to see if the Italian will play given his commitment in the Challenger event in Punta Del Este in Uruguay. The former French Open semifinalist who has fallen from grace, will be playing in the final on Sunday and potentially meet Londero in less than 24 hours in Cordoba. Regardless of jet lag, the Argentine should book a second round meeting against Hugo Dellien - a clay-court specialist from Bolivia, and potentially Laslo Djere in the quarterfinals.
Projected semifinalists: Schwartzman, Londero
Bottom Half: Last year's finalist Pella leads a stacked half
Guido Pella might still be licking his wounds from last year's final defeat to Londero after leading his countryman by a set before a sudden collapse. But given that Pella went on to win his first ATP title at the Brasil Open that month, maybe those wounds are no longer fresh.
2019 was a career-best season for Pella, reaching a career-high ranking of World No.20 in October and making the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time at Wimbledon.
Pella has a bye in the first round, but could face either Corentin Moutet - the highly talented Frenchman - or Brazil's Thiago Monteiro. It is fair to say both these players are tougher second round opponents, but certainly not ones capable of beating Pella on a good day on clay.
Fernando Verdasco could potentially be lurking in the quarterfinals for the last year's runner-up, but given how inconsistent the Spanish veteran is, it won't be a surprise if one of Andrej Martin or Federico Coria eliminated him.
The top section of the bottom half will see a mouthwatering first-round meeting between Uruguay's clay-court master Pablo Cuevas go toe-to-toe with Federico Delbonis of Argentina. Cristian Garin, the number three seed, should be too powerful for either of those players should they potentially meet him in the quarterfinals.
Projected semifinalists: Pella, Garin
When is the tournament
The tournament will be played in Cordoba, Argentina between 3rd - 9th February 2020.
Notable first-round matches
Pablo Cuevas vs Federico Delbonis
Juan Ignacio Londero vs Marco CecchinatoPublished 02 Feb 2020, 12:41 IST