Chennai:Russian top seed Nikolay Davydenko will start favourite in the singles while Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will shoulder local hopes in doubles as the $450,000 Chennai Open, featuring one of the strongest singles field this year, kicks off on Monday.
The crowd will see a range of international stars including seven top-50 players competing for the top honour with Swiss Olympic Champion Stanislas Wawrinka also throwing his hat in the ring.
Wawrinka, who won gold medal in doubles event in Beijing Olympics with Roger Federer has been seeded second. The king of the aces Croat Ivo Karlovic, seeded fourth, will be one player to watch in the hard court event.
As far as the Indian presence is concerned, Somdev Devvarman will lead the hosts nation's challenge in the singles event with his Davis Cup teammate and doubles partner Prakash Amritraj also featuring in the tough field.
However, the crowd can pin their hopes on Paes and Bhupathi, though they will be playing with different partners and are even expected to face each other in the summit clash.
Bhupathi and his Bahamaian partner Mark Knowles have been given the top billing while Paes and Czech Lukas Dlouhy are seeded second.
Both Bhupathi and Paes had a reasonable 2008 and ended within the top-10 bracket.
They have enough experience in their illustrious careers to pierce through any field and the home crowd will egg them on to win the title.
Also testing their skills would be young Yuki Bhambri and experienced Harsh Mankad who have been given a wild card entry.
Playing in the big league itself is a huge bonus for Delhi teen Yuki, who is graduating impressively from junior to senior level.
Mankad also did well last year in a few ATP Challenger series events in doubles with Ashutosh Singh and is expected to carry on that momentum but it remains to be seen how he gels with his young partner.
The road is quite difficult for Somdev and Prakash - both wild card entrants - as the former plays his first round against American world number 114 Kevin Kim and latter opening his campaign against world number 33 and fifth seed German Rainer Schuttler.
Both the Indians have to play extraordinary tennis to advance to the later stages of the event. Leander Paes is the lone Indian to have gone beyond the second round in the tournament when he stormed into the semifinals in 1998.
The 13-year old tournament has thrown open new winners on most occasions and only six top seeds have won the title including one of the contenders this time - Spaniard Carlos Moya, who remains the lone player to have won the title twice (2004 and 2005).