2014 ATP @ChennaiOpen Preview, Picks
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The 2014 ATP season will fire up with a strong trio of ATP 250 events, all on hard courts, in Brisbane, Doha and Chennai. Most of the top players will be in action and it is a fresh start to the year for everyone. Here is to a tremendous year of tennis in 2014!
Aircel Chennai Open
ATP World Tour 250
December 30-January 5, 2014
Prize Money: $399,985
Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Stanislas Wawrinka (8)
2: Mikhail Youzhny (15)
3: Fabio Fognini (16)
4: Benoit Paire (26)
Three top 20 players and top 10 player Wawrinka is a relatively good field for this 250.
First round matchups to watch:
Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (WC)Yuki Bhambri
Newly top 70 ranked Spaniard PCB was tremendous on the futures and challenger circuits in 2013 and is now going to try to maintain and improve his ranking as an ATP regular at the start of the year. He will need to do well in events like this, and do well off of clay at least occasionally. He will face one of the top Indian players, Bhambri, who is back inside the top 200 and primarily played challengers in 2013 with occasionally good results. PCB should win this one, but the surface and fan support will give Bhambri a chance.
Former Chennai champion Stan Wawrinka, who had a career 2013 in going 51-23 at the ATP level with 1 title along with breaking into the top 10, will open with a German, Benjamin Becker or Julian Reister in round 2, followed by one of Aljaz Bedene/Qualifier/Roberto Bautista Agut/Qualifier in the quarters. RBA played very well in Chennai last year, reaching the final and he has points to defend here. I expect Wawrinka, who also played in that exhibition in Abu Dhabi, to reach the semis at least.
Fabio Fognini, who also had a career 2013, reaching a career high ranking in the top 20 and going 42-27 with 2 ATP titles, will face PCB/Bhambri in round 2 and one of Rendy Lu/Tim Smyczek/Kyle Edmund/Vasek Pospisil in the quarters. Pospisil was another player who broke onto the scene in 2013 and will look to continue that strong level of play, while Smyczek is a consistent hard court competitor.
Another former Chennai champion, Mikhail Youzhny, will face Dudi Sela or Lukas Lacko in round 2, with one of Edouard Roger-Vasselin/Albert Ramos/Jiri Vesely/Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan in the quarters. Vesely is a rising youngster looking for a breakthrough and is one to watch as I think he will make the quarters and perhaps give Youzhny a test.
Benoit Paire will face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Oleksandr Nedovyesov in round 2 before one of Marcel Granollers/Somdev Devvarman/qualifiers in the quarters. Devvarman could use a good result here at home in India, but overall this a very open and rather weak section.
Dark Horse: Jiri Vesely
Vesely went 0-7 at the ATP level in 2013 but he played well on the challenger circuit and the 20 year old Czech reached the top 90. He opens with an Indian wild card, before ERV/Ramos. Assuming he gets past those winnable matches, he will have a meeting with Youzhny, where Jiri will be an underdog, but you never know what could happen.
Wawrinka d. Pospisil
Youzhny d. Paire
No previous head to head meetings between any of these players. Stan should be able to make the final. Youzhny is the favorite in the bottom half, which is rather weak.
Wawrinka d. Youzhny
Youzhny has beaten Wawrinka 3 times on a hard court, but they last met in 2010 and Wawrinka has improved significantly. As the strongest player in the field, he should capture the title.