The draw ceremony is tennis’s equivalent of the pre-fight weigh-in.
But tennis being the genteel sport that is, with combatants separated by 78 ft and a net, there is none of the theatrical posturing and the frankly quite entertaining trash-talk that marks a boxing promotion.
Instead, as we had at a carpeted hall in the SDAT Tennis Stadium on Saturday, the players sit, politely interested, a glass bowl with plastic chips goes around the room, and the draw comes into being.
Thus we learnt that Tomas Berdych, the top seed, and Marin Cilic, the third seed, were placed in the top half; that Janko Tipsarevic, the second seed, and Stanislas Wawrinka, the fourth seed, were positioned in the bottom half; and that, with this being a 28-man field, all four men received byes into the second round.
Berdych and Tipsarevic have played after the brief off-season, in the exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, but Cilic and Wawrinka will be starting cold at the ATP Chennai Open.
Somdev Devvarman could meet Berdych in the second round, but he’ll have to get past the 106-ranked Jan Hajek.
Devvarman, at his best, would have been a slight favourite to win his first-round match.
But he is finding his way back after being forced to miss much of 2012 because of a shoulder surgery.
Yuki Bhambri, the other Indian wildcard, has it hard — he plays World No. 56 Robin Haase, best remembered for letting slip a two-sets-to-one lead against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2010 and a two-sets-to-love lead against Andy Murray at the U.S. Open in 2011.
In the doubles, top seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Daniel Nestor begin against wildcards Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan.
Third seeds Rohan Bopanna and Rajeev Ram, who are drawn in the same half, play Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu and Japan’s Go Soeda.
Second seeds Leander Paes and Edouard Roger-Vasselin start against the Ratiwatana twins from Thailand, Sanchai and Sonchat.
Rains hit qualifiers
Not a single first-round qualifying match could be completed on Saturday after showers lashed the city.
In the only two matches that started, Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic led Taiwan’s Hua-Tsung Yang 6-3, 5-6 and Vignesh Peranamallur led Sidharth Rawat 2-0.