Cilic faces Berdych hurdle in hat-trick bid | sports | Hindustan Times
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Cilic faces Berdych hurdle in hat-trick bid

World number six Tomas Berdych stands in the way as Croatia's Marin Cilic attempts to start the new year in style by winning a third successive title at the ATP Chennai Open.

sports Updated: Jan 02, 2011 09:35 IST

World number six Tomas Berdych stands in the way as Croatia's Marin Cilic attempts to start the new year in style by winning a third successive title at the ATP Chennai Open.

The lanky 14th-ranked player goes into the 450,000-dollar season-opener from Monday hoping the winning streak of 2009 and 2010 continues for another year in Chennai.

The confidence gained by winning in Chennai last year helped the big-serving Cilic reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open and break into the top 10 in February.

But the 22-year-old failed to maintain the same momentum after that, losing in the first round at Wimbledon before suffering a second round exit at the US Open.

"It is not easy to play well through the season, but I am proud of the great start I had," said Cilic, who takes on his US Open conqueror Kei Nishikori of Japan in the first round.

"I can't wait to get back on the court after the off-season, and Chennai is a nice place to start. I have very good memories of the tournament."

Cilic is seeded second behind Chennai first-timer Berdych, who took giant strides on the circuit last year when he finished in the top 10 for the first time.

The 25-year-old Czech reached the French Open semi-final and then stunned Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon on the way to his maiden appearance in a Grand Slam final.

Other contenders for the Chennai title include world number 21 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, the French duo of Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy, and Serbian Janko Tipsarevic.

Wawrinka, who lost to Cilic in last year's final, was granted a wildcard by the organisers after changing his mind about not playing in the first week of the year.

Berdych faces Frederico Gil of Portugal in the first round, while Wawrinka is drawn to play India's Rohan Bopanna.

Indian fans will welcome back the famed doubles pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, who are ending an eight-year separation on the circuit to play in Chennai and at the Australian Open.

The duo won three Grand Slam titles together -- the French Open in 1999 and 2001 and Wimbledon in 1999. Paes has bagged 12 career Grand Slam doubles titles and Bhupathi 11.

They went their separate ways in 2002 for yet unspecified reasons, although they continue to team up for India in the Davis Cup and multi-sports events such as the Olympics.

Paes, 37, and Bhupathi, 36, hold the Davis Cup record for the longest winning streak of 23 doubles matches.

India's number one Somdev Devvarman will play at home for the first time after winning gold medals in singles and doubles at the Asian Games and the singles title at the Commonwealth Games.

"It has been a decent year," the 108th-ranked Devvarman said. "But there are a lot of things in my game for me to improve and I'm working on it with my coaches.

"Hopefully 2011 will be an even better season.