Chennai: World No.9 Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia heads a strong field that includes three former singles champions in the 17th ATP Aircel Chennai Open tennis tournament, beginning from Jan 2.
Also in the draw is Spaniard Nicolas Almagro (10) besides home favourite Somdev Devvarman, currently ranked 85. In fact, Devvarman, the Davis Cup star, is the only Indian in the main draw which has a cut-off of 85.
Further embellishing the field are: 2007 singles and doubles champion Xavier Malisse (Belgium), twice winner in 2009 and 2010 and defending champion Marin Cilic (Crotia), and Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland).
Addressing a media conference in Chennai on Thursday, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association president M.A.Alagappan, who is also the chairman of the Organising Committee of the tournament, said: "Confirmation of top players like Tipsarevic, Almargo and Cilic besides young sensation Milos Raonic of Canada is testimony to the stature of Chennai Open."
Raonic is only 20, was ranked 131 last year when he played the Chennai Open qualifier, but moved up to a career high of 25 in May this year.
However, in a further confirmation of the doubles combination of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi splitting, it was announced Paes is still to confirm his entry while Bhupathi will partner Rohan Bopanna.
Ashu Jindal, CEO, IMG Reliance, said: "The 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 12 inside hundred."
"The 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 comprise 16 different nations, including three from Belgium, two each from France, Croatia and Spain.
CBN Reddy, Secretary of 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.
The direct entries are: 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).