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Chennai: Nadal to meet Schuettler

December 30, 2006 20:31 IST

World No.2 and top seed Rafael Nadal of Spain will take on seasoned campaigner Rainer Schuettler of Germany in the first round of the Chennai ATP Open, which will commence in Chennai from Monday.

According to the main draw released on Saturday, second seed and world No. 8 David Nalbandian of Argentina will play Kristian Piess (ranked 84) of Denmark while third seed Xavier Malisse of Belgium will take on Danai Udomchoke of Thailand, who won three challenger titles this year.

Former champion and fifth seed Carlos Moya of Spain will meet lower-ranked Alexander Waske of Germany while crowd favourite and seventh seed Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand will meet a qualifier, to be named on Sunday.

Fourth seed Frenchman Julien Benneteau clashes with Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia in the opening round.

This year's field is the strongest ever in the history of the tournament.

Going by the performance of the seeds in the tournament so far, top seeds have won the title barring only once in 2001 when Michal Tabara of Czech Republic emerged champion. As for the Indian challenge, it seemed to be heading for the same old story of first or second round exits. Wild cards Prakash Amritraj and Karan Rastogi should be happy enough not to be drawn against seeded players in the first round.

Prakash, who had slid from his career best of 222 ranking to 393 now, takes on better-ranked Ivo Karlovic of Croatia (98), while Karan Rastogi plays 106th-ranked Thiago Alves of Brazil in their respective first round matches.

However, Rastogi has a tough task ahead as he will meet the winner of the Nadal-Scheuttler match. Same is the story for Amritraj whose progress will put him against Nalbandian or Pless.

Leander Paes is the lone Indian to have gone beyond the second round in the tournament history when he stormed into the semi-finals in 1998. He lost to Patrick Rafter of Australia, who later went on to lift the title.

Paes and his former partner Mahesh Bhupathi, regular contenders for the doubles titles, are also not playing in the tournament this year.

Summing up the tournament player's field, former India Davis Cup captain Vijay Amritraj said at the draw ceremony that the field is the strongest and the Indians had to play well to leave an impression.

"We expect some great matches from both Karan and Prakash. There are really absolutely no weak matches in the field. The 32-player field is the strongest in the tournament history and every match has got the potential to go tough. The four qualifiers to the main draw will have the talent to fight it out," Amritraj said.

"There is no easy match. I have to play 100 per cent. On the whole, the draw is not a bad or a good one," said third seed Malisse, who is on his second visit to India after his debut ATP Tour in New Delhi in 1996.

Schuettler, unperturbed despite being drawn against Nadal, sounded positive: "I will go to the court and do my best. May the better player win on the day's performance".

The head-to-head too is tilted in favour of Nadal, who has beaten Scheuttler twice (Dubai 2006 and Miami 2005) in three encounters. The German has beaten Nadal in Basel in 2004.

Both Schuettler and Malisse also said they had no problems with the humid conditions here.

 

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