A New Chapter: 2014 ATP World Tour Ready to Go
By Mike McIntyre
Despite only lasting for little over a month, the layoff between the ATP World Tour finals in November and the start of the 2014 season (which actually begins at the end of the 2013 calendar year) seems to last an eternity to tennis enthusiasts. Well the wait is finally over as the men get back to business in Brisbane, Chennai and Doha this coming week.
The Brisbane International begins on Sunday December 29th and features world number six Roger Federer as the top seed. Federer might be the best number six player there ever was and is no doubt entered in this event as a sign that he plans on making big gains in the world rankings. While regaining his number-one ranking is likely out of grasp for the 32 year-old Swiss maestro, he definitely has the ability to get back into the top-four which would make his life so much easier when the Grand Slams come around.
Federer has shared some major news over the past week as he revealed to his fans that his wife Mirka is expecting their third child in 2014 and also that he is adding his self-professed childhood idol Stefan Edberg to his coaching entourage for at least ten weeks this season.
Federer opens his season with a first round bye and will then face the winner between veteran Jarkko Nieminen and wildcard James Duckworth. Sam Querrey or Dmitry Tursunov could be his quater-final opponent, followed by perhaps fourth seeded Kevin Anderson in the semis.
Locals will be hoping that Lleyton Hewitt makes it to the finals in the other half of the draw, although look for Gilles Simon, second seeded Kei Nishikori or disgraced dope-offender Marin Cilic to say otherwise. Incredibly this is Hewitt's 17th season on the ATP World Tour!
The Qatar Exxon Mobil Open begins play on Monday and can boast about having world number-one Rafael Nadal in their draw, along with world number four Andy Murray (who returns from back surgery), defending champion Richard Gasquet as well as world number three, yes that's right - #3, David Ferrer.
Nadal opens against Lukas Rosol who defeated the Spaniard in the second round of Wimbledon in 2012 in a match that shocked the tennis world. Nadal comes into the event after losing days ago to Ferrer in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala Tennis Championship, an exhibition tournament that offers up big prize money and appearance fees to its annual field of six players.
Nadal defeated Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga in a consolation match for third place to earn a little solace for his trip to the U.A.E. In short, I wouldn't expect Rosol to give Nadal anywhere near the same level of trouble that he did on grass two seasons ago when Rafa was struggling with knee issues. The loss to Rosol was Nadal's last match played in 2012 as he was forced to shut his season down to properly recover. Nadal could face the tricky Ernests Gulbis in the quarter-finals before meeting fourth seeded Tomas Berdych in the semis if the draw holds true.
In the bottom half look for Andy Murray to quickly find his game against wildcard Mousa Shanan Zayed from Qatar. Aged 19 and with an ATP rank of 2129 in the world, the only thing that can prevent Zayed from being double-bageled is if Murray is feeling pity towards his over-matched opponent. In reality, this is probably not the match Murray is looking for as he returns to the tour following his back surgery last year.
The bottom quarter of this draw is particularly loaded, with unseeded names like Gael Monfils, Nikolay Davydenko and Alexandr Dolgopolov floating around along with fifth seeded Gasquet and second seeded Ferrer. Tennis fans in Qatar are definitely in for an early season treat this year.
The Aircel Chennai Open also begins on Monday but has a much weaker field that the one in Brisbane and Doha. Top seed Stan Wawrinka should not be troubled en route towards the finals as his biggest obstacle seems to be fifth seeded Canadian youngster Vasek Pospisil. While Pospisil made huge strides last year, he could very well suffer a step back in 2014 as his opponents will no longer be taking him lightly. Third seed Fabio Fognini is also in the top half of the draw but is rarely seen as a threat on hard courts.
In the bottom half, second seed Mikhail Youzhny is a veteran presence who can still hit the ball pretty darn well. Somdev Devvarman will get lots of attention from his home partisans and media members, but otherwise Benoit Paire is the only other recognizable name that could perhaps make some noise.
Check back with us soon here at ProTennisFan for more analysis and previews of the very first week of ATP action and enjoy whatever tennis you are able to catch on tv or online.