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    Default Stage set for Chennai Open 2010

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    With Indian tennis attracting the world stage again, thanks to the stupendous rise of the likes of Somdev Dev Verman and Yukhi Bhambri, the 2010 Chennai Open, South Asia's only ATP Tour event, is all set to be held here from January 4 to 10 with what is being touted as the best field so far.

    Predictably, from the spectators' point of view, the favourite will be wild card entrant Somdev Dev Verman, being seen as a future star of Indian tennis, and to a lesser extent on his Davis Cup teammate Rohan Bopanna.

    Presently ranked 126th on the ATP singles list, there was quite a tough debate, according to the event managers of this 15-year-old tennis carnival, which had first arrived in 1996 as the McDowell Open in New Delhi.

    Later, it was brought here by one of the Chennai born icons of Indian tennis, Vijay Amritraj, ironically at the centre of a controversy here after being replaced as chairman of the organising committee by AITA Vice President and politician Karti Chidambaram and over the fact that his son Prakash had not been given a direct wild card entry into the main draw unlike the last three years.

    In the Chennai Open this year, another talent from Sweden, the land of legendary Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilader and Stephan Edberg, top seed Robin Sodeerling, the world number eight, bears the burden of being the star player along with Croat marin Cilic, third seed Stanislas Wawrinka, ranked 14 and 21 respectively.

    But the absence of Leander Paes, who emerged as a young talent from here at the Amritraj Britannia Tennis Academy (BAT) in 1985, will surely come as a disappointment for the fans.

    Paes purportedly preferred to play for a higher appearance money in the Brisbane Open which began in Ausralia today. However, the crowd can have the fun of watching Mahesh Bhupati, who scaled new heights from here as Leander's doubles partner.

    Sponsors Aircel are making special plans and programmes this time to ensure that the stands are full on most of the days, one of them being Indian football ace Baichung Bhutia playing tennis with the Chennai Open contestents tomorrow.

    The tournament went through three title sponsors and brand names. It was played as the Gold Flake Open (1997-2001), Tata Open (2002-2004) after which the hunt for a title sponsor began to keep it in Chennai and IMG raising their 'charges' to keep it here. With Vijay's help, the then Tamil Nadu government chipped in to keep it here with a consortium of sponsors for a five year period from 2005-09.

    However, the rising Indian talents appear to have little going in their favour when they step on to the centre court for their first round matches.

    For, Somdev, who attained fame with his epic win in India's Davis Cup battle against South Africa to put the country back in the world group last September, is drawn against the powerful Rainer Schuettler of Germany who is here for the seventh time.

    It was Schuettler's pull out due to injury from the singles semifinals last year that put Somdev in the final last year.

    Somdev went on to create history by becoming the first Indian player to emerge runner-up at the Chennai Open.

    However, this time Schuettler determined to avenge that and bag his first singles title. He had won a doubles title here before.

    Bopanna is in a worse situation. He will have to match his skills against Wawrinka, from legend Roger Federer's country Switzerland.

    Soderling would be looking for a fine run here, arriving with the reputation of a win against Federer in the preceding tourney last Friday.

    Defending champion Cilic, who is determined to make it an encore this time, also has for company another rising star, Serbian number two Janko Tipsarevic, who is seeded number four. The top 50 player had four ATP quarter final appearances and a win against world no 6 Andy Roddic in the second round at Wimbledon in 2009. He also helped his country qualify for the Davis Cup World Group last year.

    The TNTA has already started work to ensure that the event remains in Chennai. Next year, the host Association is planning to make it an all India event by launching package tours during the week with a travel agency, according to its Secretary Mr Nageswar Reddy.

    This was to give the event a pan India presence because so far this has been an event for Chennai, basically, he says.

    The prize money tag this year is 68,450 dollars for the winner plus 250 ATP points, 35,980 dollars with 150 ATP points for the runner-up, 19.450 dollars plus 90 ATP points for semifinalists and 11,450 dollars for the quarterfinalists with 45 ATP points.

    The previous singles winners between 2009-1996 2009-1996 were : Merin Cilic, Michael Youzhny, Xavier Malaise, Ivana Ljubicic, Carlos Moya(twice), Paradon Srichaphan, Guillermo Canas, Michael Tabara, Jerome Golmard, Byron Black, Patrick Rafter, Mikael Tilstrom, Thomas Emqvist.

    In the doubles India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati created history by becoming the first pair to win an ATP doubles event three times in a row between 1997 and 1999 and yet again in 2002. They also then went on to bag French Open and Wimbledon Grand Slam titles before splitting.


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