Chennai, Jan 2: There is a lot riding on top seed Tomas Berdych going into the Aircel ATP Chennai Open commencing here Monday and it has much to do with his credentials as the 2010 Wimbledon finalist, besides his World ranking of six.
The Indian hopes are firmly on unseeded Somdev Devvarman who is in the top half, where wild card and compatriot Rohan Bopanna plays third seed Stanlislas Wawrinka, also a wild card, in the first round.
It being the first tournament of a new season, Berdych will have to get rid of the off-season cobwebs and as such, cannot take success for granted. He only needs to check with the likes of Robin Soderling, Rafael Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko, all top seeds who could not win the title here.
The top seeds have never quite enjoyed a good run at the Chennai Open and Berdych needs to be aware of it as he comes up against Portugal’s top ranked Frederico Gil in the first round.
Soderling arrived here last year as the French Open finalist and a victory against Roger Federer in an exhibition match the preceding week only to lose in the first round to American journeyman Robby Ginepri.
In 2009, it was Davydenko, ranked No.5, who lost in the second round while in the previous year, Nadal, then No.2, and drained by a tough three-setter against fellow-Spaniard Carlos Moya in the semis, failed in the final, losing to Mikhail Youzhny. In 2007, Nadal lost in the semi-finals to Xavier Malisse who is seeded seventh this year, but beat Berdych in Washington en route to the semi-finals.
In fact, Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic was the last top seed to win the Chennai Open, in 2006 when he came into the main draw as a wild card entry and denied Moya his third consecutive title.
Berdych has a potential semi-final meeting with Swiss Wawrinka, the third seeded wild card and last year’s runner-up to Marin Cilic who is seeded second.
Cilic, the gangling 22-year old Croatian, is eyeing his third consecutive title after victories in 2009 as a third seed and last year when he was seeded second behind Soderling. Although currently ranked 14, Cilic had a good start to 2010 when he reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and went on to achieve his career-best ranking of nine. He spent 11 weeks in top-10 before ending the year at 14.
Given his track record and potential, Cilic is among the hot favourites for the title this time and he has the game to achieve a hat-trick.
“It will be tough as there is a lot of talent in the draw and you cannot take anything for granted,” Cilic, who is to meet Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the first round, had said in a pre-event interview.
In terms of talent, there are the likes of Wawrinka and Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic, both semi-finalists here last year. Incidentally, Tipsaravic lost to Cilic in 2010 and also in 2009 at the quarter-final stage.
As luck of the draw would have it, Tipsarevic, as the sixth seed, is billed to again meet Cilic in the quarter-finals that should make for an intriguing contest.
In the doubles competition, old warhorses Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are the top seeds, facing the Swiss-Canadian combo of Wawrinka and Frank Dancevic in the first round while the India-Pakistan pair of Bopanna and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi, the US Open finalists, are seeded second.
From the home perspective, the other pair that needs to be watched is Devvarman and Sanam Singh, winners of the doubles gold medal at the Asian Games.
Overall, the Chennai Open this year reflects considerable depth in terms of talent and promises some high-octane action. –(IANS)