Chennai: India's No.1 singles player Somdev Devvarman was on Thursday accorded a wild card entry while World No.6 Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic has been given the top billing in the 18th ATP Aircel Chennai Open commencing here next month.
Devvarman, who had pulled out of the previous edition because of a recurring shoulder injury, has been given the first of the two wild cards for the event to be held at the SDAT Tennis Stadium from December 31 to January 6. The playing field, sans defending champion Milos Raonic of Canada, will see both the India and International players in action including Berdych, World No.9 Janko Tipsarevic, two-time former singles champion and World No.15 Marin Cilic and World No.17 Stanislas Wawrinka in addition to Benoit Paire, Robin Haase and Yen-Hsun Lu.
This will be 26-year-old Berdych's second visit to the tournament, who led the Czech team to victory against Spain at the Davis Cup Final held this past weekend. Tipsarevic, who will be playing at the Chennai Open for the fifth successive year, made the fourth round of the Australian Open and reached a career-high ranking of nine in May before bagging his third title of the season.
He had a perfect close to the season by qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Cilic, the 6ft 6inch Croatian, won the singles titles here in 2009 and 2010. He was in the 2012 field as the fourth seed but suffered a patella tendon injury, which ruled him out of the tournament as well as the season's first Grand Slam, the Australian Open.
Cilic gained momentum by reaching the Munich final in April this year. In July, he captured his eighth ATP World Tour title at the ATP Vegeta Croatia Open Umag. Switzerland's Wawrinka, who will also be a part of this season's draw for the fifth straight year, is eyeing a winning start like the previous edition.
The fourth seed Wawrinka's greatest achievement till date has been the gold medal for Switzerland in the men's doubles event in Beijing Olympics, partnering multiple Grand Slam winning compatriot Roger Federer. A total of 22 players have been accorded a direct entry for the tournament. The USD 4,50,000 championship is India's only and South Asia's premier ATP World Tour Open 250 event.
"The tournament has been growing in popularity every year and this year's confirmation from four of the top 20 players is testimony to the stature of Chennai Open," said M A Alagappan, President of Tamil Nadu Tennis Association. However, defending champion Milos Raonic has preferred to play in the other tournaments happening on the same dates," added Alagappan, who is also the chairman of the organising committee of the tournament.
Alagappan also announced that India's warring duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, who were locked in an ugly selection row in the build-up to the London Olympics, will be playing with different partners and Rohan Bopanna, who is getting married this weeked, has confirmed his participation alongside Rajeev. The Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) is trying hard to keep the Chennai Open in the city as the agreement with IMG, the owners of the tournament, ends this year. TNTA has been associated with the tournament for 17 years now.
"We are committed to raise the necessary funds for it to continue as the annual feature in the city for another five years," said Alagappan.
Following are the Direct entrants: Tomas Berdych (Czech-6), Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia-9), Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland-17), Marin Cilic (Crotia-15), Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland-17), Benoit Paire (France-47), Robin Hasse (The Netherlands-56), Go Soed (Japan-58), Yen-Hsun Lu (Taiwan-60), Igor Sijsling (Netherlands-69), Andry Kuznetsov (Rissia-79), Roberto Baustista-Agut (Spain-80), Guillaume Rufin (France-90), Blaz Kavoic (Slovenia-98), Joao Sousa (Spain-99), Edouard Roger-Vasselin (France-100), Sergiy Stakhovsky (Ukraine-101), Matthias Bachinger (Germany-104), Jan Hajek (Czech-105) and Dudi Sela (Israel-109).