AIRCEL CHENNAI OPEN 2012: THE FIELD OF BATTLE (PART 2 OF 2)

The favorites, Wawrinka and Tipsarevic and Cilic, will not have a clear and easy run to the finals- because the following is a strong list of contenders that look like much more than mere dark horses or one-match wonders. Most of them are desperate to get back into the limelight, and even have that final hurrah- and what better time to do it than the first competition of the year: when legs are fresh and minds alert?
The Contenders (Best of the Rest) for the 2012 Chennai Open:

Nicolas Almagro
The dark horse on the men’s circuit, this quiet  Spaniard has gathered over 10 ATP titles in his career, gradually rising to an impressive ranking of 10 in the world after a strong 47-23 2011 season. He is famous for his lethal forehand, and possesses a playing style that categorizes him as a complete offensive baseliner- in stark contrast to his countrymen Nadal and Verdasco. He is, as most Europeans tend to be, a claycourt specialist- and has contested all his finals on these courts. This is his FIRST appearance at the Chennai Open, and he will look to open his hard-court account with an upset-ridden run to the finals of 2012. 
Xavier Malisse
The Belgian flag-bearer for Tennis, the journeyman 31 year old, will begin his 14th year on the tour with his fifth consecutive appearance at the Chennai Open. The former Champion (2007) has been recognized more as a doubles specialist throughout his career, even having a Grand Slam to his name (French Open 2004) with partner Olivier Rochus (who is also playing in this tournament). He has won only 3 titles in his singles career, and has most notably beaten World Number Ones like Roger Federer and Andy Roddick at prestigious Masters events. He has always been in the reckoning for most competitions, with plenty of semi-final and last 16 appearances at most of them. The Belgian ‘X-Man’ will look to continue his impressive run at his favorite tournament in 2012, and will be the dark horse along with home favorite Somdev. He was runner-up last year after upsetting most of the younger contenders, and eventually lost to a rampant Wawrinka in 3 sets in the final. 
Young Guns:
Somdev Devvarman
Though he cannot technically be classified as a youngster anymore (soon turning 27), the US-trained former College Champion Indian player will look to repeat his shock 2009 final appearance, if he gets part a tough first-round against a seeded player. The Indian is running out of time on tour, and has- for long- been classified as one of the ‘guns to watch out for’ by many including
Andy Roddick. 2012 could be his breakthrough year, if he begins in earnest at home, and builds on his win by consistently delivering quarter-final and last 16 performances throughout the year against a rapidly-rising star field. 
Milos Raonic
The 21 year old Canadian player is the youngest in the top 35 of the world, and has recently been named the ‘young ATP Player of the year’. He possesses the record for the fastest rise in World Rankings within the top 200, jumping more than 110 spots to 37 after a quarter-final appearance at the 2011 Australian Open. He is well-known for his accurate and punching serve, and his fiery temperament that has given him plenty of last-16 appearances in 2011- including the Monte Carlo Masters, Gery Webber Open, Stockholm Open and Estoril Open. Recovering gradually from a hip surgery, the young Canadian will look to do a Cilic at Chennai, and hopefully do much more than a Cilic during the rest of the year. 
There are also the names of Robin Haase, Fognini, Dudi Sela (the Israeli superstar), the once-number-one-ranked American
Sam Querrey, the pint-sized Olivier Rochus (who famously held match points against Federer on Grass at Halle in 2006), and German Andreas Beck (not the German football defender). 
The wildcards (Somdev was one in 2008), qualifiers and Doubles entries will be announced closer to the tournament date- with Indo Pak express Bopanna and Qureshi as well as our very own Indian express Lee-Hesh a sure-in to the main draw as the first two seeds.

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