Nadal, Nalbandiyan head strong field this year

Published: Monday, January 1, 2007, 17:28 [IST]
 

Chennai, Dec 30 (UNI) A heady New Year tennis bash is in store on the Nungambakkam stadium courts for tennis fans as the curtain goes up for the ATP tour Chennai Open 2007 to be held here from tomorrow to January seven, with world No 2 Spain's Rafael Nadal and world No 8 Argentine David Nalbandian heading a formidable field.

Besides Nadal, who is determined to kick off the new season on a winning note on what would be his second visit to Chennai Open and Nalbandian, the USD 416,000 prize money event has three players in the top 50 of the ATP rankings, including Xavier Mallisse of Belgium (37), Julien Benneteau of France (40) and another Spaniard, two times champion and last year's runner up Carlos Moya(43), the former World No 1.

That's not all: another Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, who has been here regularly, and ranked 52, crowd favourite Thai Paradorn Shrichaphan (53), Nicholas Mahut (France, ranked 66), Bjorn Phau (Germany, ranked 77), Stefan Koubek(Austria, ranked 80), Simon Greul (Germany, ranked 82), Kristian Pless (Denmark ranked 84), Yen-Hsun Lu (Taipei, ranked 89), considered as another rising talent from Asian continent, Igor Andrev(Russia, ranked 91) and Rainer Schuettler (Germany, ranked 97) and a seasoned campaigner at Chennai, all in the top 100 add richly to the field.

No match, as former Indian tennis ace Vijay Amritraj observed at the draw ceremony, would be one sided. Every match could go full distance with the field being wide open.

This fact would be truly borne out by one first round match in the draw, in which Schuettler would take on the star of the Chennai edition this year, Rafael Nadal.

Nadal has a 2-1 score on winning note against Schuettler. But the latter is confident that he would give off his best.

Another exciting prospect for an outside title win is Xavier Malisse.

The Frenchman Julien Benneteau, seeded number four behind, Nadal, Nalbandian and Malisse, is also being looked at as a dark horse for the title.

The big serving Croat and the tallest the game had seen so far, Ivo Karlovic could add excitement to the fans with his propensity to serve up aces tirelessly, if his record of 15 in a match is any indication. It may be noted that Karlovic had upset the then reigning champion Lleyton Hewitt in the 2003 Wimbledon -- the first time when a reigning champion bowed out in the first round itself.

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