By Mike McIntyre
American Sam Querrey has the top seed and enjoys a first round bye. He will face either Alexandr Dolgopolov (who lost to Roddick in Brisbane) or a qualifier in his first match. It will be interesting to watch Querrey this year and see if the 23 year old is ready to take another big step forward. 2010 saw him win tournaments on all three surfaces, so expectations are high.
Gilles Simon looks to be the toughest opponent in Querrey's section of the draw and the two could face-off in the third round. Simon is a former top-ten player, though he is not seeded in this event after sustaining a lackluster 2010 season.
Ernests Gulbis is the third seed and is also in the top-half of the draw, but somebody remind me when he last accomplished anything worthwhile on the circuit.
Marcos Baghdatis is the defending champion in Sydney and is seeded second this year. He gets the winner of Potito Starace and Julien Benneteau. Look for the Frenchman Benneteau to possibly give him trouble in round two.
Juan Martin Del Potro has a wildcard into the tournament and gets Feliciano Lopez, the eight seed, in a tough first round match. After missing the majority of 2010 with a wrist injury, it is going to be fun to watch a healthy Del P and see if he bounces back this season. It will be nice to see him back near the top of the rankings and giving guys like Nadal and Federer a good run for their money.
World No. 7 David Ferrer of Spain takes the number one position in Auckland and gets a bye in the first round. He will open against either Tobias Kamke or a qualifier in round two. Philipp Kohlscrhreiber the eighth seed looks like potential trouble in the top-half of the draw while veteran Tommy Robredo is also present though unseeded.
In the bottom half clay-court guru Nicolas Almagro is the number two seed while John Isner is the third seed. The tall American returns to Auckland as the defending champion where he won his first ever ATP World Tour title. In the finals a year ago he saved a match point en-route to defeating Arnaud Clement.
David Nalbandian is also present and could cause some damage if he is healthy and fit to start the season. It seems something usually goes wrong with the Argentine in the early-goings of the tennis year, perhaps due to a lack of proper preparation or maybe just due to his chronic misfortune with injuries.
All in all a pretty nice draw in Auckland this year and one of several players involved could walk away with the title.
Though not an official ATP tournament, the Kooyong Classic usually has some top-level talent on display. The annual exhibition offers up some pretty nice prize money to entice tour players to play.
This year they boast a lineup of Jurgen Melzer, Nikolay Davydenko, Gael Monfils, Lleyton Hewitt, Mikhail Youzhny, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Fernando Verdasco in the tournament.
The draw has not yet been revealed but winners advance to the championship side while losers are relegated to the consolation section where they still are able to get a couple of matches under their belt prior to heading to Melbourne.
Enjoy the tennis and stay tuned for our Australian Open preview in a week's time.