India's Somdev Devvarman may run into the defending champion and third-seed, Stanislas Wawrinka, in the second round of the Aircel Chennai Open.
At the draw of lots on Saturday, the top four seeds — Janko Tipsarevic, Nicolas Almagro, Wawrinka and Milos Raonic — all received first round byes (an outcome of a 28-strong draw instead of the regular 32-strong one), while Devvarman was slated to play against the 30-year-old Frenchman Eric Prodon, ranked 97 in the world.
“It's a long way to go. Before meeting Stanislas, I have to play Eric in the first round. It will be the first meeting between us and I have to be ready so that I have a good chance to win,” said the 2009 finalist and World No.84.
Scheduling and conditions, Devvarman said, made Chennai Open the perfect preparatory tournament for the Australian Open, the year's first major. “Not just for me, for all the players this is a good preparation for the Australian Open. This year we're even playing with the same balls.”
World No. 17 Wawrinka, who won his only hard-court title here in 2011, said he would like to recreate last year's level of play, but sounded wary of his potential second round adversary.
“I have to be ready for the match and it will be a tough one against Somdev if he wins against Prodon. He's a great guy. We practiced a lot together last season,” said the Swiss.
Fourth-seeded Milos Raonic, standing out in a yellow Lacoste t-shirt (Wawrinka and Devvarman too were flaunting, although in shades slightly more sober, the Frenchman's creations) voiced his views in reedy tones.
“I haven't played in over six weeks. I'm looking to make a good start to the season and coming back here many more times,” said the Canadian, who will kick-start his campaign in the second round against the winner of the Victor Hanescu-Sam Querry match.
Indian wildcards Yuki Bhambri and Vishnu Vardhan were handed stiff openers. National champion Yuki will take on the seasoned Slovakian Karol Beck and faces a possible clash against top-seeded Tipsarevic in the second round if he surmounts the first hurdle.
Vishnu Vardhan, who gave Japan's Kei Nishikori a torrid time in the Davis Cup this past season, has an even tougher encounter. He meets Croatia's Ivan Dodig, ranked 36 in the world and seeded fifth here, in the first round.
“Both Yuki and Vishnu should utilise this opportunity and build up their rankings, like how Somdev did when he reached the final as a wildcard entrant in 2009,” said Karti P. Chidambaram, Chairman of the tournament organising committee and AITA vice-president.
The third wildcard, Belgian David Goffin, Devvarman's 2011 conqueror, will meet compatriot, former champion and last year's finalist Xavier Malisse in the first round.
Sixth-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini begins against tournament regular Dudi Sela of Israel.
In the doubles draw, top-seeded Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna will take on the unseeded Malisse and Ken Skupski in the first round.
Second seeds Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram open against local wildcards Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, while the third-seeded pair of Leander Paes and Janko Tipsarevic start against Somdev Devvarman and Treat Conrad Huey.
Keywords: Aircel Chennai Open