After a lull of a little over a month, new tennis season will get underway in the first week of January 2015 in the Eastern Hemisphere. Top tennis stars have their own plans at to where they want the season to start for themselves. The first tournament is the Brisbane International in Australia that starts on January 4, 2015. Two other ATP250 fixtures begin on January 5 at Chennai and Doha. These tournaments end on January 11 and there will be two more from January 12 at Auckland and Sydney before everyone comes to the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open at Melbourne Park beginning January 19, 2015.
Roger Federer will be the top seed at Brisbane, where he lost to home favorite Lleyton Hewitt last year. Federer ended 2014 as world no.2 behind Novak Djokovic, who leads the Swiss by 1585 points as the year begins. One of Federer’s objectives in 2015 will be to regain the top spot as he chases his 83rd Tour level title. Also playing at Brisbane are; Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Lleyton Hewitt, Grigor Dimitrov and Kevin Anderson. Ranked no.8 currently, Raonic would strive for his seventh ATP Tour level title. For Lleyton Hewitt, who recorded his second victory over Federer in a total of 27 meetings, the home ground is the ideal place to begin the year. The one player, who was expected to make his return after a long lay-off, Juan Martin del Potro, has since withdrawn as his wrist injury continues to trouble him. But it is learnt that Delpo will resume his career at the Apia International on January 12 in Sydney, where he is the defending champion. Another notable withdrawal at Brisbane on medical reasons is US open champion Marin Cilic.
On January 5, the 20th edition of India’s only ATP event also begins. The top seed in Chennai is the world no.4 Stanislas Wawrinka, who has fond memories of his last year’s Chennai Open title, after which he took the Australian Open crown as well. Other top stars playing in Chennai are; Feliciano Lopez, Roberto Bautista Agut and David Goffin. After helping his country to their maiden Davis Cup win, Wawrinka will look for repeating his 2014 performance at Chennai. Last year his opponent was Edouard Roger-Vasselin but the field has since enriched. World no.14 Lopez could be a tough customer for Wawrinka, while the challenge from 2014’s most improved player Bautista Agut cannot be brushed aside. Other than Agut, who was the 2012 finalist at Chennai, Belgium’s David Goffin is also a strong contender.
The third ATP250 tournament is the Qatar Exxon Mobil open at Doha. This tournament also begins on January 5 and it has a very strong field with top seed Novak Djokovic leading the pack. It is a debut for Djokovic but he will do his best to win here to kick-start his 2015 campaign in great fashion. For the 27-year old Serb, victory at Doha will be a fitting boost to begin his campaign for the fifth Australian Open title. Doha will also keenly await for Rafael Nadal, who has been out due to injury for nearly six months now. For Nadal, it will be the seventh appearance at Doha, where he won last year for the first time defeating Frenchman Gael Monfils. Other stars at Doha will be; Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer, Ernests Gulbis, Philipp Kohlschreiber Richard Gasquet and Dominic Theim.
On January 12, two more ATP250 tournaments will begin at Sydney and Auckland. The Apia International at Sydney is about 130 years old and every year, it attracts the best talent among men and women, a week before the Australian Open. Sydney resident Lleyton Hewitt has been quite popular, having won in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2005. Juan Martin del Potro will resume his tennis campaign at Sydney after 11 months and he will be joined by Fabio Fognini, David Goffin, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Julien Benneteau, Nicolas Almagro, Leonardo Mayer, Jeremy Chardy and Nick Kyrgios. Sydney has a rich women’s draw too with 22 of top 30 WTA players attending.
Alongside Sydney and beginning the same day, Auckland will also host the Heineken Open, which is regarded as the biggest professional sporting event for men in New Zealand. Like Sydney, the 59 year old tennis tournament at Auckland is held a week ahead of the Australian Open as a preparatory event for the year’s first Grand Slam. Last year USA’s world no.14 John Isner took the title after beating Taiwanese Yen-Hsun Lu in a hair-raising final. Isner will be back once again along with David Ferrer, who won at Auckland in 2007, 2011 and 2013, though he lost his semifinal game against Lu in 2014. Other than Isner and Ferrer, the Auckland event will have Ernests Gulbi, Tommy Robredo, Bautista Agut, Dominic Theim, Gael Monfils and Kevin Anderson.