Chennai: Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic hopes to build on a successful 2011 when he starts the new season as the top seed at the ATP Chennai Open from Monday.
The lanky Serb broke into the top 10 for the first time last year, capped by two titles and a memorable win over compatriot and world number one Novak Djokovic at the World Tour finals in London.
Tipsarevic, number nine in the end-of-year-rankings, described his swift rise from the mid-40s as a "dream come true" and is determined to continue his climb up the ladder.
"I never thought I could reach this far so fast only in one season," he said. "My determination made the difference."
Tipsarevic, who lost in the semi-finals at Chennai last year, returns to the tournament in the southern Indian city looking to strike early form ahead of the Australian Open, the season's opening Grand Slam.
The other top contenders include defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, Nicolas Almagro of Spain and rising star Milos Raonic of Canada.
Wawrinka, who beat Xavier Malisse of Belgium in last year's final, said he looked forward to another productive start to the season.
"I can't wait to kick off the season," Wawrinka said. "I love these events at the beginning of the year and hopefully I can do as well as last year."
Wawrinka conceded he faced a tough battle in defending his Chennai Open title.
"It is a very strong field," he said. "Tipsarevic has the game to stay in the top 10, Raonic is sure to cause a few upsets this year and Almagro is always a big fighter and tough opponent. It promises to be a great tournament."
Almagro, who won three titles on clay last year, makes his maiden appearance on the hard courts of the Nungambakkam tennis stadium hoping to iron out the flaws in his game.
"I need to work on my physical and mental strengths," the 26-year-old said. "I need to improve my volley and try to be regular all through the season. I hope this will be a good week for me."
Raonic, a 21-year-old Canadian with a booming serve, was named the ATP's newcomer of the year in 2011 after rising from world number 156 at the start of the year to number 31.
"I hope I can make an impact in this tournament and have a strong start in the season," said Raonic, who lost in the qualifiers in Chennai last year.
"I just want to keep improving my game. The rankings will follow. The serve is my biggest weapon and that puts a lot of pressure on my opponents."