Chennai: World No. 4 and two-time champion Stan Wawrinka leads the field at the Aircel Chennai Open, which is celebrating the tournament’s 20th anniversary. Other seeds in the field are: No. 2 Feliciano Lopez, who finished a year-end best No. 14 last season, No. 3/’13 finalist Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 4 David Goffin, No. 5 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, No. 6 Yen-Hsun Lu, No. 7 Marcel Granollers and No. 8 Gilles Muller. The tournament in Chennai is the first of eight ATP World Tour events to be held in Asia this season and the only stop in India.
DAY ONE: The action gets underway at the SDAT Tennis Stadium with three main draw singles matches on Monday. In the opening match on Centre Court, last year’s finalist Edouard Roger-Vasselin takes on No. 8 seed Gilles Muller, who has won two of the previous three ATP World Tour matches. A doubles match follows with Indian wild cards N. Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan in action. In the final match, 18-year-old Borna Coric makes his debut against Dutchman Robin Haase. The final round of qualifying will also conclude on Monday.
STAN THE MAN: Last season Wawrinka compiled his best season on the ATP World Tour, winning a career-high three titles (Chennai, Australian Open, Monte-Carlo). He began the season in Chennai and continued his success in Melbourne, reaching a personal-best No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Jan. 27. He closed the season by reaching the SF at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals (l. to Federer) and then joining Federer to lead Switzerland to a first Davis Cup title (d. France 3-1). Wawrinka is appearing in Chennai for the seventh straight year and he owns a 15-4 match record. Along with his two titles, he also reached the final in 2010.
SPANISH RANKING CLIMBERS: Lopez and Bautista Agut were two of four Spaniards (No. 3 Nadal, No. 10 Ferrer) to finish in the Top 15 Emirates ATP Rankings last season. Both finished with career-best rankings, Lopez at No. 13 and Bautista Agut at No. 15. Lopez is making his Chennai debut while Bautista Agut is playing for the third straight year. He reached his first ATP World Tour final here two years ago (l. to Tipsarevic).
INDIAN TITLE HOPES: World No.136 Somdev Devvarman, who became the first native player to reach the final in Chennai in 2009 (l. to Cilic), is one of three main draw wild cards. He has a 5-5 career record in Chennai. Devvarman finished last season No. 138. He played well on home soil Challengers in February, winning the title in New Delhi and reaching SF in Chennai and Kolkata. Other wild cards are 20-year-old Chennai native Ramkumar Ramanathan and Swedish teenager Elias Ymer, who is the youngest player in the draw at 18.
YOUNG STARS IN TOP 100 – In 2014, Borna Coric finished as the youngest player in the Top 100 Emirates ATP Rankings at No. 91. He was the recipient of the ATP Star of Tomorrow presented by Emirates, given to youngest player in year-end Top 100:
Player Age 2014 Year-end Ranking
- Borna Coric 18y, 0m No. 91
- Nick Kyrgios 19y, 6m No. 52
- Dominic Thiem 21y, 2m No. 39
- Jiri Vesely 21y, 4m No. 66
- Bernard Tomic 22y, 1m No. 56
LEANDER 99 & COUNTING – Leander Paes is making his 15th tournament appearance in 20 years with his ninth different partner. The 41-year-old Indian star makes his debut with South African Raven Klaasen, his 99th different partner Last year Paes was entered with Fabio Fognini but the Italian withdrew due to a thigh injury. The 41-year-old Indian star has won the doubles title six times (1997-99, ’02, ’11-12), the first five with long-time partner Mahesh Bhupathi (’12 w/Tipsarevic).
A LOOK AT THE FINALS: Wawrinka is trying to become the first player to repeat as champion since Marin Cilic in 2009-10. The 29-year-old Swiss native is the only former winner in the field. There are three former finalists in the draw (Roger-Vasselin, Bautista Agut, Devvarman):
FORMER CHAMPIONS AND RUNNERS-UP (since 2005):
YEAR WINNER RUNNER-UP SCORE
2014 Stan Wawrinka Eduard Roger-Vasselin 7-5, 6-2
2013 Janko Tipsarevic Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6, 6-1, 6-3
2012 Milos Raonic Janko Tipsarevic 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4)
2011 Stan Wawrinka Xavier Malisse 7-5, 4-6, 6-1
2010 Marin Cilic Stan Wawrinka 7-6(2), 7-6(3)
2009 Marin Cilic Somdev Devvarman 6-4, 7-6(3)
2008 Mikhail Youznhy Rafael Nadal 6-0, 6-1
2007 Xavier Malisse Stefan Koubek 6-1, 6-3
2006 Ivan Ljubicic Carlos Moya 7-6(6), 6-2
2005 Carlos Moya Paradorn Srichaphan 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5)
All four seeded teams are playing in Chennai for the first time, led by top seeds Raven Klaasen and Leander Paes. The 41-year-old Paes has won the doubles title a tournament record six times. The top three seeds in singles are entered in the doubles draw. The only double winner in tournament history is Xavier Malisse in 2007 (w/Norman). Wawrinka is teaming up for the first time with Bautista Agut while Lopez is pairing up with veteran Max Mirnyi. They played together in seven tournaments last year (6-7 record), reaching the final in their debut in Acapulco.
FORMER DOUBLES CHAMPIONS (since 2005)
2014: Johan Brunstrom & Frederik Nielsen 2009: Eric Butorac & Rajeev Ram
2013: Benoit Paire & Stan Wawrinka 2008: Sanchai & Sonchat Ratiwatana
2012: Leander Paes & Janko Tipsarevic 2007: Xavier Malisse & Dick Norman
2011: Mahesh Bhupathi & Leander Paes 2006: Michal Mertinak & Petr Pala
2010: Marcel Granollers & Santiago Ventura 2005: Yen-Hsun Lu & Rainer Schuettler
Note: Bhupathi-Paes also won titles in 1997-99, ‘02
SEEDS TO WATCH THIS WEEK
SEED PLAYER RECORD BEST FINISH
1. Stan Wawrinka 15-4 W 2014, ‘11
2. Feliciano Lopez 0-0 Debut
3. Roberto Bautista Agut 4-2 F 2013
4. David Goffin 3-2 QF 2012
5. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4 SF 2005
6. Yen-Hsun Lu 3-5 R16 2014, ’12, ‘05
7. Marcel Granollers 7-3 SF 2014, ‘09
8. Gilles Muller 2-2 QF 2006
SEED PLAYER BEST FINISH
1. Raven Klaasen & Leander Paes Debut
2. Andre Begemann & Robin Haase Debut
3. Johan Brunstrom & Nicholas Monroe Debut
4. Oliver Marach & Michael Venus Debut