Chennai: The hint of a smile on Somdev Devvarman’s face vanished as soon as the tournament director Tom Annear drew the Indian to play against sixth-seeded Yen-Hsun Lu in the opener of the Chennai Open that begins here on Monday. “It’s going to be tough,” Somdev, ranked 138th, said. “He’s coming off a fantastic season. We trained together in Doha and had a practice session in Chennai as well. I know how he plays,” added Somdev, who crashed out in the first round here last year.
Though Somdev, one of the three wild card entrants, had beaten Lu in a Davis Cup match in 2009, he has a reason to worry now. Lu, 30-year-old, reached his first ATP World Tour final in Auckland last year with a stunning victory over the event’s four-time champion David Ferrer. He had also upset world no. 5 Tomas Berdych in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters.
Another Indian wild card Ramkumar Ramanathan will take on Japan’s Tatsuma Ito. In the doubles, Leander Paes is set for a showdown with his estranged partner Mahesh Bhupathi. Paes and his 99th partner Raven Klassen have been given the top seed. If the Indo-South African pair get past their first round opponents, Lukas Lacko and Andreas Haider-Maurer, they could run into Mahesh Bhupathi and Saketh Myneni.
Reigning Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka is the top seed in the 28-player draw. The top four Wawrinka, Feliciano Lopez (Spa), David Goffin (Bel), Roberto Bautista Agut (Spa) have been handed a bye. Wawrinka and Lopez will land in the city on Sunday evening after featuring in the six-player exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi. Goffin said he prefers to have one extra match rather the first-round bye.
“I would love to have some match practice especially at the start of the season. I may run into a qualifier who would come carrying the momentum of winning three-four matches. So it’s very tricky,” said Goffin, the current world no. 22 who made waves here in 2011 as a qualifier.
The draw: Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bye; Borna Coric (Cro) vs Robin Haase (Ned); Elias Ymer (Swe) vs Igor Sijsling (Ned); Edouard Roger-Vasselin vs Giles Muller; David Goffin (Bel) bye; Ricardas Berankis (Ltu) vs qualifier; Jiri Vesely (Cze) vs qualifier; Andreas Haider-Maurer (Aut) vs Marcel Granollers (Spa); Hsun-Yen Lu (Tpe) vs Somdev Devvarman (Ind); Pablo Carreno Busta (Spa) vs Alejandro Gonzalez (Col); Peter Gojowczyk (Ger) vs Alejandro Falla (Col); Roberto Bautista Agut (Spa) bye; Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (Spa) vs qualifier; Ramkumar Ramanathan (Ind) vs Tatsuma Ito (Jpn); Lukas Lacko (Svk) vs qualifier; Feliciano Lopez (Spa) bye...