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Draw pits Prakash against Harsh

January 04, 2004 20:20 IST
Last Updated: January 04, 2004 20:33 IST

India is assured of a first round win in the singles as two wild cards -- Prakash Amritraj and Harsh Mankad -- have been drawn to play in the main draw of the ATP Tour Tata Open commencing at Chennai on Monday evening.

Top seed and former World No.1 Carlos Moya of Spain will open his 2004 campaign on a relatively easy note as he runs into a qualifier while defending champion Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand will clash with Albert Motanes, also of Spain.

The prestigious tournament in its ninth year, has been proving that the Indians are perfect hosts, so selfless that they frittered away chances through wild cards so far barring once when Leander Paes made good use of it losing in the semi-finals in 1998 to top seed Patrick Rafter of Australia. Paes also had won first round matches in 1999 and 2000.

Mahesh Bhupathi scoring over Prahlad Srinath in the first round in 1996 in New Delhi was the last time that two Indians had been drawn to play in main draw as wild cards.

Though Paes was expected to use the event to return to competitive tennis after his illness and make the much-awaited reunion with his estranged partner Bhupathi, his decision ruling himself out to take some more rest before Australian Open has affected the field in doubles.

The continued separation of the Indian duo, arguably one of the best pairs in the world doubles in recent times, has also resulted in dwindling crowd support to the tournament.

Paes's withdrawal at Chennia has forced Bhupathi to pair with an unknown Dmitry Tursinov of Russia. But, Bhupathi expressed confidence of doing well in the tournament having been drawn to play against top seeded duo of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel in the first round (quarterfinals).

Paes and Bhupathi combine still holds the record of having won on four occasions (1997, 1998, 1999, 2002) in six appearances.

In 2000, Bhupathi did not compete due to an "injury" and Paes partnered Byron Black of Zimbabwe. Last year, Bhupathi in Tood Woodbridge's company lost in the semi finals, while Paes with David Rikl was edged out in the last eight.

Reacting to the draw, Bhupathi said "it does not look a strong field and I should be able to do well".

Paradorn, who spoke at length on defending title said he had never played against his first round rival, Albert Montanes.

"I never plan to win a title but scheme my way on winning match by match.

On his being the lone Asian in top flight in ATP Rankings, the Thai said "ATP Tours are fairly easier than Grand Slams. I had in both Wimbledon and US Open made it to the last 16. My first goal will be to move successfully from first to second week and on..., in Grand Slams.

"I am proud to play in ATP tournaments held in Asian countries which is very special to me. I play for the Asians. I am coming to Chennai for the third time since the knowledgeable crowd appreciates good tennis and I am able to raise my game because of their support," said Paradorn.

Ravi Krishnan, Managing Director of IMG, who spoke on the future of the tournament here said "the tournament requires sponsors and financial support from Tamil Nadu Government and Tourism board. We have been trying to negotiate with them. We are hopeful that the event will remain here as one of the 69 tour events as players enjoy coming to Chennai".

Schedule of events in the ATP Tour Tata Open Tennis championship for Monday:

Final Singles qualifying: Court 1: Petr Luxa (Cez) vs Noam Okun (Isr) 3.00 pm, followed by Vishal Punna (Ind) vs Julian Knowle (Aut) and Court No. 2 Danai Udomchoke (Tha) vs  Jacob Adaktusson (Swe) 3.00 pm followed by Jan Vacek (Cze) vs Zeljko Krajan (Cro).

Singles (Main Draw-First round): Centre Court: David Ferrer (Spain) vs Fernando Verdasco (Spain) 5.00 pm followed by Harsh Mankad (Ind) vs Prakash Amritraj (Ind); Anthony Dupuis (Fra) vs Alexander Popp (Ger) and Kristian Pless (Den) vs Jean Rene Lisnard (Fra);

Court No.1: Igor Andreev (Rus) vs Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (Spain) followed by Paul Goldstein (USA) vs Oliver Mutis (Fra)

Court 2: Harel Levy (Isr) vs Albert Portas (Spain) 5.00pm followed by John Van Lottum (Ned) vs Galo Blanco (Spain)

Doubles: Court No.1: Rafael Nadal (Spain) and Tommy Robredo (Spain) vs Jordon Kerr (Aus) and Jim Thomas (USA) 5.00 pm.

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