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'Spice Boys' to add flavour to Chennai Open

Forget the fact that the Chennai Open has not been able to attract any of the top five players. People were still heading towards the SDAT stadium, the day before the tournament kicks off. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were returning, as a team, in their city. Deepti Patwardhan reports.

sports Updated: Jan 03, 2011 10:43 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

Forget the fact that the Chennai Open has not been able to attract any of the top five players. People were still heading towards the SDAT stadium, the day before the tournament kicks off. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were returning, as a team, in their city.

"It's nice to be back," said Paes, surveying the stadium, sprinkled with fans who had come to watch him practice. "There's so much of history here."

It was the stage the 'Spice boys' had rocked, the first week of every year, from 1996 to 2002, picking up four titles (1997-99, 2002) along the way. Even though they are a little older now, the chemistry on-court hasn't faded.

And it is fitting that Paes-Bhupathi will officially reunite on the tour at the Chennai Open this week.

They are the figureheads of an impressive Indian contingent.

Somdev Devvarman, a finalist in 2009 here, and wild cards Rohan Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri will make up the Indian participation in the singles draw. Devvarman earned a direct entry into the main draw on the merit of his ranking and will be hoping to

make the most of the home support.

The doubles pair of Rohan Bopanna and Pakistani's Aisam Qureshi is also guaranteed to pull in the crowds.

With the tournament coinciding with the ATP events in Doha and Brisbane, the singles field is missing of a power name. The huge appearance money, about $ 1.5 million, lures Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to Doha, while Brisbane benefits from its proximity to the Australian Open.

Tomas Berdych, now ranked sixth in the world, will lead the singles field, which also comprises two-time defending champion Marin Cilic, Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet of France.

Indians lose

None of the Indians could make it past the second round of qualifying at the Chennai Open.

With the local challenge having already been reduced from 13 to three on the first day, the remaining players were also eliminated on Saturday.

Vishnu Vardhan, who had fought back from two match points down to win the first round of qualifiers, lost 1-6, 4-6 to Croatia's Ante Pavic.

Wild-card Rupesh Roy went down 3-6, 1-6 to fourth seed Konstantin Kravchuk while top seed Go Soeda of Japan defeated Karunday Singh 6-3, 7-5.