2013 ATP World Tour: Ready. Play.
By Mike McIntyre
Andy Murray leads the field in Brisbane as the top seed. He has a first round bye followed by either Tatsuma Ito or a qualifier in the second round. A competitive yet ultimately winnable match against Lleyton Hewitt looms for round three, although the Aussie veteran must get past an equally aged Radek Stepanek in his first match of the tournament.
Talented but inconsistent Alexandr Dolgopolov is the fourth seed and is also in the top half of the draw. He has Kei Nishikori in his section as well as the experienced Tommy Robredo and Julien Benneteau. While Robredo is trying to re-establish himself after missing a large portion of last season due to injury, both he and Benneteau are still capable of causing an upset.
In the bottom half of the draw Canadian Milos Raonic holds the second seed and is playing in this event for the first time. It is interesting that he has chosen to play in Brisbane rather than defending his trophy from Chennai. I'm only speculating here but I would imagine this has to do with acclimatizing himself to Australia ahead of the season's first Grand Slam in two weeks time. A final match against Murray would be a good early season test for Raonic who is hoping to post more wins against top-ten calibre oponents this season as he continues his development on the tour.
Marcos Baghdatis and third seeded Gilles Simon are also in the bottom half of the draw and could both give the young Raonic problems.
A new champion will be crowned in Chennai this year and first seed Tomas Berdych will be leading the charge. Berdych will face either Jan Hajek or Somdev Devvarman in the second round after receiving a bye for the first round. Marin Cilic is also in the top half of the draw and has won this tournament in 2009 and 2010. A Berdych vs. Cilic semi final showdown is a safe bet here.
It makes sense for players to return to tournaments where they have experienced success in the past, and Chennai is no different with former champ Stan Wawrinka (2011) and finalist Janko Tipsarevic (2012) both in the bottom half of the draw this year.
Wawrinka may be rusty while Tipsarevic has already played three matches at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi. There he defeated Andy Murray in his opening match before losing to Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer. Tough to take much stock out of those results, but it does give Tipsarevic more match preparation than the other competitors in this event.
With more than double the prize money of the other two level 250 events going on this week, Doha represents a stronger opening week field.
David Ferrer is the top seed and opens against a qualifier. Ferrer also competed in Abu Dhabi this past week where he defeated Berdych and Tipsarevic but fell easily to Novak Djokovic. Ferrer is certainly getting the most out of his skill set and had a fantastic 2012 season that saw him rise to number five in the world. The gap between him and the injured Rafael Nadal is quite close so the chances of him breaking into the top four is likely if he starts the year with a few wins.
The second quarter of the draw contains threats such as Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny and Feliciano Lopez while the third quarter of the draw is also dangerous with Gael Monfils, Philipp Kohlshreiber and Jeremy Chardy.
In the final quarter, second seeded Richard Gasquet could be a good pick to advance to the finals while Viktor Troicki should also be watched. Gasquet is ranked 10th in the world which is his best ranking since June of 2008.