World No. 9 Robin Soderling will head the field at the Aircel Chennai Open that begins on January 4 at the SDAT Tennis Stadium here.

On fire in the ATP tour, Soderling has beaten the second and third ranked Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the ongoing World Tour Finals in London and is the only man to have defeated Nadal in the French Open.

In Chennai, the Swede will be pitted against defending champion Marin Cilic, Beijing Olympics doubles winner Stanislas Wawrinka, Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic and Israel’s Dudi Sela.

15 top-100 players

Fifteen of the 25 direct entries this year are ranked in the top 100 — five in the top 50 — making it one of the most competitive Chennai Opens. Other prominent participants include Germany’s Simon Gruel, Americans Rajeev Ram and Robbie Ginepri, and Spaniard Marcel Granollers.

Two-time winner and crowd favourite Carlos Moya is not in the main draw, but last year’s runner-up and India’s top-ranked player Somdev Devvarman is likely to benefit from one of the three wild cards on offer.

Tournament organisers refused to confirm the participation of India’s doubles veterans Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.

Speaking to the media via teleconference from London, tournament director Fernando Soler said, “Players from 16 countries will compete at the Aircel Chennai Open, and having Robin Soderling will be an honour. He is the new kid on the block.”

Also speaking from London, TNTA president M.A. Alagappan called the event one of the biggest sporting occasions of South Asia, and emphasised on the importance of its role in inspiring and nurturing talent.

Honouring 1966 Davis Cup heroes

Along with the $450,000 main event, attractions will include an inter-club tournament, and a ceremony honouring India’s 1966 Davis Cup team led by Ramanathan Krishnan.

The chairman of the tournament organisers, Karti P. Chidambaram, said security would be overseen by a committee headed by R.K. Raghavan, former chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The event has found itself a title sponsor in Aircel and will be telecast live on Ten Sports and Zee Sports. The qualifying rounds are scheduled for January 2 and 3.

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