Somdev Devvarman enjoys a healthy rivalry with Marin Cilic. The Indian ran into Cilic in the final of the Chennai Open last year, and came up short. Though he has avenged the defeat since, the Croat once again placed hurdles in Somdev’s campaign in Chennai.
At the draw ceremony on Saturday, Cilic gleefully volunteered to pick out Somdev’s opponent in the first round. His draw: Rainer Schuettler, the dangerous German, who had pulled out from the semifinal against Somdev in last edition as the Indian made his maiden appearance at an ATP final. Cilic could have done better if he meant to gain a few fans here.
“I was supposed to play Schuettler last year, so this will be an interesting re-match,” said Somdev, who has risen to 126 in the rankings. Schuettler, entering his 16th year on tour, is ranked 85.
A tough second round also awaits the Indian, as he will run into the winner of the match between Carlos Moya, a wildcard entrant, and fourth seed Janko Tipsarevic. Second seed Cilic will go up against Igor Kunitsyn of Russia in the opening round, which commences at the SDAT Nungambakkam Stadium on Monday.
Somdev’s Davis Cup teammate, Rohan Bopanna, was also straight thrown into the deep end as he faces third seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland. Though he played a big hand in India qualifying for the Davis Cup World Group, the tall Coorgi struggled with a knee injury last year and hasn’t had the best of seasons on tour in singles.
In another interesting first-round clash, top seed Robin Soderling of Sweden will go up against former US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri. Both the players are making their tournament debut. Soderling, who enjoyed a definitive season in 2009, has taken his form into the new year, beating Roger Federer at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi this year.
The only withdrawal from the original players’ list was Russia’s Teimuraz Gabashvili, who was replaced by Germany’s Bjorn Phau in the main draw.
On Saturday former player Vijay Amritraj was not seen at the draw ceremony. A permanent fixture at the draw over the last couple of years, it was surprising that he was not present.