Clay-court tennis returns to the fold with some dusty action from Latin America. The Cordoba Open, an ATP 250 tournament, is back with its third edition and will be held from 22 to 28 February 2021.
The tournament marks the beginning of the South American claycourt swing, also known as the "Golden Swing" in tennis.
Home favorite and last year's finalist Diego Schwartzman will be the biggest attraction of the event. His compatriot Guido Pella is also present, giving the Argentine crowd a chance to get its second home champion after Juan Ignacio Londero won the inaugural edition in 2019.
Other stars in the tournament include Benoit Paire, Dominik Koepfer, Miomir Kecmanovic and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Notable absentees include last year's champion Cristian Garin and claycourt magician Pablo Cuevas.
With main draw action set to begin on Monday, let's have at the prospects of the top players at the 2021 ATP Cordoba Open:
Top half: Diego Schwartzman faces big threats from fellow Argentines
Expected semifinal: Diego Schwartzman vs Guido Pella
Analysis: The Argentine crowd's hopes for a home champion will likely revolve around the top half of the draw, as Diego Schwartzman, Guido Pella, Federico Delbonis and Juan Iganico Londero have all been piled up in the same half.
Schwartzman will look to go all out and win a title at home after coming up short against Cristian Garin in 2020. But the World No. 9 will likely be presented with an early challenge, in the form of former Roland Garros semifinalist Marco Cecchinato.
Schwartzman could then face either his compatriot Juan Ignacio Londero or experienced claycourter Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the quarterfinals, before a likely final-four clash against another compatriot - Guido Pella.
Pella, like Schwartzman, has been handed a bye into the Round of 16. The fourth seed should expect a tough quarterfinal though, where he would likely meet fellow Argentine Federico Delbonis.
Predicted semifinal: Diego Schwartzman vs Guido Pella
Dark horse: Federico Delbonis
Bottom half: Benoit Paire and Dominik Koepfer could set up a spicy quarterfinal clash
Expected semifinal: Benoit Paire vs Miomir Kecmanovic
Analysis: The bottom half of the draw is pretty wide open, with almost everyone in with a decent chance of reaching the final. The top seeds in this half are not particularly known for their consistency, and any stumbles could open up a path for the lower-ranked players.
Miomir Kecmanovic won his first and only ATP title on clay last year in Kitzbuhel, and should be the bookies' favorite to reach the final from this half. But the 21-year-old has been handed a brutal draw, with potential back-to-back matches against two dangerous Brazilians - Thiago Seyboth Wild and Thiago Monteiro.
If Kecmanovic gets through to the semis, he could face Benoit Paire or Dominik Koepfer for a place in the final.
All three of Benoit Paire's career ATP titles have come on clay. The Frenchman can make it four if he is able to deliver on his unquestionable talent next week.
Paire has a bye into the Round of 16, where he'll play either gritty Spaniard Jaume Munar or wildcard entrant Nicolas Jarry. Paire's life could get even more difficult in the quarterfinals where he'll likely face Dominik Koepfer, who was in red-hot form during last year's European claycourt season.
Koepfer's path to the last-eight isn't straightforward though. The German opens his campaign against Federico Coria, who will have the home support to cheer him on. After that he would likely face last year's Rio finalist Gianluca Mager in the Round of 16.
We expect Thiago Monteiro to cause some unexpected fireworks in this half and reach the final.
Predicted semifinal: Thiago Monteiro vs Benoit Paire
Dark horse: Thiago Monteiro
Prediction for the final
Diego Schwartzman vs Thiago Monteiro