India's No.1 Somdev Devvarman has gained a direct entry into the main draw of the men's singles at the $450,000 Aircel Chennai Open tennis tournament between January 3 to 9.
Currently ranked 106, the 25-year-old Somdev, a finalist here in 2009 who this year won a historic double of gold medals at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, made the cut that was applied at 114, according to Ravi Krishnan, MD, IMG South Asia.
Incidentally, Somdev is the first Indian since Leander Paes in 2001 to receive a direct entry. Paes was ranked 188 at that time.
In all, 25 players received direct entries while the other seven spots will be filled up with three wild Cards and four qualifiers.
Heading the 32-man main draw that contains players from 18 countries, are Czech Tomas Berdych, currently ranked No.6, and Croatia’s Marin Cilic (No.14) who is in line for a third title in a row.
The 25-year-old Berdych, who broke into top-10 in September this year following two brilliant runs in the French Open (semi-final) and Wimbledon (final), has had victories against the Swiss champion Roger Federer, including one in Wimbledon.
Cilic, just 22, enjoyed a nine-week stay in top-10, achieving a career-best of No.9 before slipping to his present NO.14 spot. The Croat won the Chennai Open title in 2009 and 2010.
Karti P. Chidambaram, vice-president of All-India Tennis Association (AITA) and chairman of the organising committee, said that virtually all the top Indian players, including doubles specialists Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, besides Rohan Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri, will be seen in action.
"There are three wild card spots in the main draw of 32, but we will announce the names sometime next month. But all the Indian Davis Cup players will be participating, some of them in the qualifying competition," he said.
About the possibility of Paes and Bhupathi pairing up in preparations for their plans to win the Australian Open in January to complete a career doubles Grand Slam, Chidambaram said: "I do not know whether they will play together or with different partners, but for sure, they will be here."
The main draw also has 24-year-old Frenchman Richard Gasquet (No.29), a former top-10 player in 2007-08, and Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2008. Incidentally, Gasquet served a three-month suspension due to doping in 2009.
In a video conference, tournament director Fernando Soler pointed out that the main draw includes several talented youngsters, notably Japanese Kei Nishikori (99), Colombian Alejandro Falla (104) who held a match point against Federer at the 2010 Wimbledon, and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov (112).
"All these youngsters are potential top-10 players and they add depth to the field," Soler said from London while addressing the media along with Tamil Nadu Tennis Association president M.A. Alagappan.