Chennai: World number nine Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia and world number 10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain will feature in a strong lineup of stars for the 17th ATP Aircel Chennai Open tennis tournament commencing on January 2 next year.
Indian rising star, Somdev Devvarman, who had his formative years in this city and is ranked ranked 85 in the world, remains the lone host player in the main draw.
At 98, the cut off rank for the main draw is the lowest in the history of this championship.
The cut off when the tournament shifted from New Delhi to Chennai in 1997 was 177 and last year it was 114.
This year the cut off has further come down to 98, which is indicative of the strongest field for the biggest tennis tournament in the South Asian region.
Winner of the 2007 singles and doubles titles, Xavier Malisse (Belgium), Marin Cilic (Crotia), twice winner in 2009 and 2010 and defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) have confirmed participation in the event.
"Confirmation of top players like Tipsarevic, Almargo, Cilic, twice winner of the tournament and young sensation Milos Raonic of Canada is testimony to the stature of Chennai Open," M A Alagappan, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association President who is also the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the tournament, said at a press conference to launch the field of players.
Alagappan thanked the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu for supporting the event.
Announcing the main draw of 21 direct entrants, Ashu Jindal, CEO, IMG Reliance said "cut off of 98 for the coming event is the strongest field ever in 16 years for the tournament being held here without break.
"The field of 21 direct entrants include two players in top ten, seven inside 50 on ATP ranking and another twelve inside hundred. 2012 Chennai Open will aim to set new benchmarks in all aspects and offer players and fans a great tennis festival."
He said the 21 players hail from 16 different nations including three from Belgium and two each from France, Croatia and Spain.
Meanwhile, C B N Reddy, Secretary TNTA, said "all three wild cards are likely to be provided to Indian players and the main draw of 28 will also include four qualifiers".
He said Raonic, who is just 20 years old and had competed here last year as a qualifier with ranking of 131 has come up with great victories on the ATP tour this season and had reached a career-high ranking of 25 in May this year, would be another player to watch out for.
Following are the direct entrants: Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia-9), Nicolas Almagro (Spain-10), Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland-17), Marin Cilic (Crotia-22), Milos Raonic (Canada-31), Ivan Dodig (Croatia-36), Robin Haase (Netherlands-45), Fabio Fognini (Italy-48), Xavier Malisse (Belgium-49), Olivier Rochus (Belgium-67), Yen-Hsun Lu (Taiwan-82), Dudi Sela (Israel-84), Somdev Dev Varman (India-85), Steve Darcis (Belgium-88), Pere Riba (Spain-89), Victor Hanescu (Romania-90), Blaz Kavcic (Slovenia), Sam Querrey (USA-93), Benoit Paire (France-94), Eric Prodon (France-97) and Andreas Beck (Germany-98).