The stars are coming out on week one, even uncharacteristically on the women’s side, as current No. 1 Novak Djokovic and former top dogs Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic compete at four events in week one of 2015.
QATAR EXXONMOBILE OPEN
Doha, Qatar; Surface: hard
Seeds: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Richard Gasquet, Ivo Karlovic, Leonardo Mayer
Floaters: Lukas Rosol
Notes: Good news: Novak and Rafa are in the field; bad news: that’s about all the excitement, at least early on…Djokovic opens against fellow Serb Dusan Lajovic…Rafa eases into his first event with a match against a qualifier, then the winner of Ivan Dodig and Egyptian wildcard Mohamad Safwat…Berdych and Ferrer also Top 10ers in the field…(7) Karlovic opens against the upset specialist Rosol…Djokovic debuts in Doha…Nadal beat Gael “Force” Monfils in last year’s final…Argentine seed Leo Mayer also making his tourney debut…Pulling from the event were Nicolas Almagro, Ernests Gulbis and Dominic Thiem (flu)…Former champs in the field are Nadal (2014) and Gasquet (2013)…Nadal looking to join Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg as players to win Doha back-to-back since the tournament’s inception in 1993.
BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL PRESENTED BY SUNCORP
Brisbane, Australia; Surface: hard
Men’s Seeds: Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Kevin Anderson, Gilles Simon, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Julien Benneteau
Men’s Floaters: Lleyton Hewitt, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Bernard Tomic, Sam Querrey
Men’s Notes: Tough openers for (5) Anderson vs. the Hewitt/Sam Groth winner, and (8) Benneteau vs. the home-country riser Kokkinakis (winner to face the Tomic/Querrey winner)…Roger Federer has never won Brisbane in two appearances, last year upset in the final by the former No. 1 Hewitt…Wildcards went to Aussies James Duckworth, Kokkinakis and John Millman…Pulling from the event were Marin Cilic (shoulder), Donald Young, and Juan Martin del Potro (wrist)…Hewitt (2014,’00,’98) is the lone returning champ in the field.
Women’s Seeds: Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Dominika Cibulkova, Andrea Petkovic, Jelena Jankovic, Carla Suarez Navarro, Garbine Muguruza
Women’s Floaters: Sabine Lisicki, Caroline Garcia, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Victoria Azarenka, Sam Stosur, Madison Keys, Kaia Kanepi
Women’s Notes: Solid seeded line-up, with a plethora of dangerous floaters…Openers to watch are (1) Sharapova after a bye likely meeting Lisicki, (3) Kerber vs. Garcia, (8) Muguruza vs. the mercurial Mattek-Sands (winner to likely meet Azarenka), (4) Cibulkova vs. Keys (winner to likely face Stosur), and (5) Petkovic vs. Kanepi…Wildcards went to Aussie Jarmila Gajdosova and Croat Ajla Tomljanovic…Pulling from the event was Camila Giorgi with a reported “mouth injury” (don’t ask?)…Doubles wildcards went to Ivanovic/Kerber, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/Lisa Raymond, and Daria Gavrilova/Storm Sanders…Former champs in the field are Kanepi (2012) and Azarenka (2009).
AIRCEL CHENNAI OPEN
Chennai, India; Surface: hard
Seeds: Stan Wawrinka, Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez, Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Yen-Hsun Lu, Marcel Granollers, Gilles Muller
Floaters: Borna Coric
Notes: Wawrinka the lone Top 10 player in the field…Wawrinka after a bye could face the Croat riser Coric…The No. 2-seeded F-Lo makes his debut at the tourney…Wildcards were awarded to India’s Somdev Devvarman and Ramkumar Ramanathan, and Swede Elias Ymer…It’s the 20th edition of the event…Wawrinka beat France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin in last year’s final…Wawrinka (2014, ’11) is the lone returning champ in the field, and will attempt to join Marin Cilic and Carlos Moya as the only back-to-back Chennai winners since the tournament’s inception in 1996.
Shenzhen, China; Surface: hard
Seeds: Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Peng Shuai, Zarina Diyas, Klara Koukalova, Irina-Camelia Begu, Monica Niculescu, Timea Bacsinszky
Floaters: Annika Beck, Donna Vekic, Vera Zvonareva
Notes: Two Top 5 players head the field in Halep and Kvitova, cha-ching, then the drop-off is substantial…Challenging starts for (1) Halep vs. the German riser Beck, (4) Diyas vs. the Croatian riser Vekic, and (3) Peng vs. the Russian veteran Zvonareva…Wildcards went to China’s Duan Yingying and Russia’s Natalia Vikhlyantseva…Sorana Cirstea pulled from the event citing a shoulder injury…The now-retired Li Na won the first two editions of the tournament in 2014-13.
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