World No. 6 Tomas Berdych will debut alongside Hawk-Eye technology and online ticketing at the season-opening Aircel Chennai Open which begins here on January 3.

The 6'5” Czech player, who reached the 2010 Wimbledon final, will head a singles field of 32 that includes two-time winner Marin Cilic, former top-10 resident Richard Gasquet, past champion Xavier Malisse and tournament regular Janko Tipsarevic.

Although Berdych faltered under the pressure of expectation following his career-best Wimbledon showing, his form in the ongoing Barclays World Tour Finals augurs well for tennis fans in Chennai. In all, the draw features five players from the top 50 and 15 from the top 100.

Asian Games double gold medallist Somdev Devvarman — a finalist in 2009 — gets a direct entry since his ranking (106) is within the cut-off of 114. The draw also accommodates four qualifiers and three wild cards, which will be announced next month.

While doubles stars Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi have confirmed their entry, the participation of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi — as a team or otherwise — is yet to be confirmed.

Future secure

The future of the $450,000 tournament in Chennai, now in its 16th edition, also appears to be secure, at least for two years after 2011.

“From 2014, we might have a different ATP calendar, so we thought it was prudent on our part to go for a two-year contract. We are also trying to convert this into an ATP 500 event,” said Karti Chidambaram, All India Tennis Association Vice-President, tournament organising committee chairman, at a press conference on Thursday.

Chidambaram said online ticketing and Hawk-Eye technology were likely to attract more spectators.

However, Hawk-Eye — a major attraction at the Delhi Commonwealth Games — will be in place only on the centre court at the SDAT Stadium.

Hub of tennis

Interacting via video conference, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association President M.A. Alagappan said, “Chennai is the hub of Indian tennis and this tournament has played an important role in nurturing talent in the country.”

IMG South Asia Managing Director Ravi Krishnan said, “The strength and depth of the field illustrates the tournament's position as the premier tennis event in this part of the world.”

The association of Fernando Soler — Head, Tennis IMG Worldwide — with the Aircel Chennai Open also continues as he reprises his role of Tournament Director in 2011.

The event will be telecast live on TEN Sports.

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