Get to know your stars better

CHENNAI, DEC. 30. Many fresh faces, quite a few experienced players and some journeymen are part of the main draw for the Tata Open, which commences at the SDAT-Nungambakkam Stadium here on Monday. With a cut-off ranking of 117, the highest in seven years of the Open, one can hope for top-drawer stuff.

Chennai fans have always welcomed the visitors with warmth and appreciated good tennis even from middle-level players. The list of winners will bear testimony to this. And there is no hard evidence to disprove the theory this time too.

A cursory glance at the field throws up some promising players who will slug it out to earn their day in the sun on January 6. Following are the thumb-nail sketches of some who would be worth watching.

lThomas Johansson: Birthdate: March 24,1975; Birthplace: Linkoping, Sweden; Residence: Monte Carlo; Height: 5'11``; Plays: Right-handed; Turned professional: 1994.; 2001 ATP Champions Race: 18; Nickname: Toker (meaning `little bit crazy' in Swedish).

A bright prospect to emerge from the shadows of Stefan Edberg. With four ATP titles in 2000 and two back-to back crowns in Halle in Germany and Nottingham in England in 2001, this guy is bound to go places.

lGuillermo Canas: Birthdate: November 25, 1977; Birthplace: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Residence: Buenos Aires; Height: 6'0''; Plays: Right-handed; Turned pro: 1994.

Canas has won one singles and two doubles titles overall. Canas won his maiden title beating Sergei Bruguera at Casablanca. Jumped from a ranking of 140 in 2000 to 14. Has beaten top players like Tim Henman, Marat Safin and Thomas Johansson. Is the hot favourite for the title.

lAndrei Pavel: Birthdate: January 27, 1974; Birthplace: Constanta, Romania; Residence: Borgholzhausen; Height: 6'0``; Plays: Right-handed; Turnred pro: 1990; ATP Champions Race: 28.

He became the first Romanian to win a Tennis Masters Series title in Montreal. Packs a lot of punch, and has three titles to his credit.

Dominik Hrbaty: Birthdate: January 4, 1978; Birthplace: Bratislava, Slovakia; Residence: Monte Carlo, Monaco; Height: 6'0''; Plays: Right-handed; Turned pro: 1996; ATP Champions Race: 36; Career titles: 5 (2 singles & 3 in doubles). Nicknamed: The Dominator.

Having beaten top players like Marat Safin, Marcelo Rios and has the ability to dominate any player on his day.

Karol Kucera: Birthdate: March 4, 1974; Birthplace: Bratislava, Czechlovaskia; Residence: Monte Carlo, Monaco; Height: 6'2``; Plays: Right-handed; Turned pro: 1992; ATP Champions Race: 94.

Fabrice Santoro: Birthdate: 12-9-1972; Birthplace: Tahiti; Residence: London, England; Turned pro: 1989; Height: 5'10''; Plays: Right handed; 2001 ATP Champions Race: 22. Nicknamed: Fab.

Has scalps of Andre Agassi, Tim Henman, Nicolas Kiefer. Helped France lift the Davis cup defeating Australia recently; A dark horse in search of his maiden title.

Max Mirnyi: Birthdate: July 6, 1997; Birthplace: Minsk, Belarus; Residence: Minsk, Belarus/Bradenton, Florida, USA; Turned pro: 1996; Height: 6'5``; Plays: Right handed; Nickname: The Beast; 2001 ATP Champions Race: 34.

Known primarily as a doubles player. Won the 2000 US Open doubles title along with Lleyton Hewitt. If Vijay Amritraj's words of praise are to be taken at face value, then he is a sure bet for the championship.

Leander Paes: Birthdate: June 17, 1973; Birthplace: Kolkata, India; Residence: Kolkata, India, Orlando, Fla; Height: 5'10''; Plays: right-handed; Turned pro: 1991; ATP Champions Race: 183.

Three time Gold Flake doubles champion; winner of the 1999 & 2001 French Open and 1999 Wimbledon doubles titles. Will be aiming to restore the magic that he produced with Mahesh Bhupathi from 1997-1999 in Chennai.

Michal Tabara: Birthdate: August 11, 1979; Birthplace: Uherske Hradiste, Czech Republic; Residence: Napajedla, Czech Republic; Turned pro: 1997; Plays right-handed: Height: 59; ATP Champion Races: 6'3``. Won his maiden title in the last edition of the Gold Flake Open.

Andrei Stoliarov: Birthdate: January 9, 1977; Birthplace: Sochi, Russia; Residence: Sochi, Russia; Plays right-handed; Turned pro: 1995; Height: 5'10''; ATP Champions Race: 71; Best performance: Runner-up in the last edition.

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