unfamiliar names


The 2010 ATP tennis season is set to begin at three locations across the globe this week and plenty of big-name players are getting ready to fine-tune their games as the first slam of the year approaches. It’s hard to believe that in less than three weeks we’ll already be watching the action at the Australian Open. Such is the way the ATP tour continues to operate and therefore players can ill-afford to skip the early part of the season.

Here’s a look at the competition in Brisbane, Chennai and Doha.

Brisbane International:

For those players looking to get accustomed to the Aussie heat and limit any last minute travel leading up to the Open, Brisbane is the place to be.

American Andy Roddick is seeded number one in the tourney and should advance to the finals without any major opponents in his path. Sure Richard Gasquet might give him a workout in the quarters, but it’s not like he has to face a Federer or a Nadal at any point. Tough to say who he might encounter in the semi’s, but if Marcos Baghdatis is ready to go, he could certainly make it to that stage. Baghdatis is never in super shape, and that might explain why he typically has such good results in January – nobody else is ready either!
The bottom half of the draw is pretty sparse, so look for defending champion Radek Stepanek to make it through to the semi-finals at least with relative ease.

An interesting opening match-up has 5th seeded Sam Querrey against unseeded James Blake. Blake is accustomed to being the number two ranked American behind Roddick, but we’re seeing a younger group like Querrey and John Isner start to challenge. I really feel like 2010 is the year where Blake either has to make some tactical adjustments or kiss the top-fifty goodbye for good.

Aircel Chennai Open:

The draw in Chennai is quite wide-open so look for some unfamiliar names to potentially have a small breakthrough here. Sweden’s Robin Soderling is the number one seed here and deservingly-so after his accomplishments in 2009. Soderling already has an exhibition win over Roger Federer this year, so he should perform well. A potential semi-final opponent is Stan Wawrinka who should be able to gather a few wins in Chennai.

In the bottom of the draw don’t be surprised if either wildcard Carlos Moya or Somdev Devvarman makes a splash. Moya has won this tournament twice before and will be looking for a fond farewell as 2010 is likely his last on tour. Devvarman is a former NCAA standout and has performed well since joining the pro ranks a year and a half ago. He will certainly have plenty of support from the local crowd.
Second seeded Marin Cilic should also not be forgotten. The big-serving Croat should be able to maneuver into the finals.

Qatar Exxon Mobil Open:

So exactly where are all the big fish to start the 2010 season? Look no further than Doha, Qatar where the $1 million-plus prize purse has attracted Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko. Imagine potential appearance fees on top of that and you can see why this tournament has nabbed the world’s number one and two players. There is a big drop-off in talent after these three players however, and perhaps this is due to the distance between Qatar and Australia. It’s a bit out of the way for players without a legitimate shot of advancing.
Roger has a good draw in the top-half and will likely face Davydenko in the semi’s. After breaking the all-time Grand Slam record in 2009 and having his focus divided between being a family man and a professional tennis player, Roger is going to be tested more than ever in 2010. While Nadal and Murray have had Fed’s number over the years, there may be new players that emerge as regular threats to his game. Davydenko defeated him for the first time at the season-ending championships in November, and Soderling did the same a day ago in Abu Dhabi.
In the bottom-half of the draw, look for Nadal to find his way easily to the finals, where he would face Mikhail Youzhny if the draw holds true to form. You never know what you’re getting with Youzhny however, so don’t be surprised if someone else surprises.