| Sweating it out: Mark Philippoussis practises his serve in Chennai Sunday. (AFP)
Chennai: Defending champion Guillermo Canas takes on unseeded Dick Norman of Belgium while all the three Indians, including Leander Paes, run into tough opponents in the first round of the singles main draw at the Tata Open ATP tournament commencing here on Monday.
Paes has been pitted against fourth seeded Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina while the other two wild card entrants, Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj play Zeljiko Krajan (Croatia) and Jiri Vanek (Cze), respectively.
Second seeded Paradorn Srichaphan will meet Jan Vacek (Cze) and third seeded Sjeng Schalken of The Netherlands plays Juan Balcells (Spain). Unseeded Mark Philippoussis of Australia takes on a qualifier.
Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj, who was among those present at the draw ceremony, summed it up saying the file was very evenly spread. ďAll the guys are strong. Even the qualifiers will be good. Outside of top four seeds, itís extremely wide open,Ē Amritraj said.
On the prospects of the Indians, he said though Paes runs into the fourth seed, he had always brought out his best against tough opponents. The crowd would also back him. Vijay said Bopanna had a tremendous serve and described him as a great Davis Cup potential.
He described his son Prakash as an accomplished player. Sixth seeded Rainer Shuttler of Germany, the runner-up in the 1999 edition, said the field was of high quality and everyone would give their best to win.
In the doubles, the top seeded pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Todd Woodbridge take on the wild card combination of Mark Philippoussis and Justin Gimelstob in their first round. Paes is pairing up with David Rikl of the Czech Republic and they meet unseeded Simon Aspelin (Swe) and Jim Thomas (US).
The third Indian pair in the fray, the Amritraj cousins, Prakash and Stephen will play the German duo of Karsten Braach and Rainer Shuttler.
Sridhar loses in qualifiers
The Indian challenge ended when Rishi Sridhar lost tamely to fifth seeded Tomas Behrend in straight sets, but seedings took a tumble with the top four biting the dust as all the qualifiers were spotted for the singles main draw.
Sridhar, who upset Mahesh Bhupathi in the first round, could do little against Tomas lost to Behrend of Germany 4-6, 0-6. Oliver Patience and Julien Varlet (Fra), Michael Kohlmann and Behrend (Ger) moved into the main draw.
In the final round qualifying matches, Patience shocked top seeded Noam Okun of Israel 6-2, 6-2, sixth seeded Julien Varlet (Fra) upset third seeded Bjorn Phau (Ger) 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 and Behrend overcame Maximilian Abel (Ger) 6-3, 7-5. (PTI)