Okay, time to preview the field for the Heineken Open! Let's get into it, starting with the best.
David Ferrer is coming back to Auckland to defend his title. What can you say about this man that hasn’t been said recently? He’s had an amazing year, is ranked at a career-high of number 5 in the world, and is in hot form having reached the final of the season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai. It will be awesome to see him on the courts of the ASB Tennis Centre again, and although successful title defences are not common on the tour, it’s hard to bet against Ferrer.
Unfortunately it looks as though Guillermo Canas will not be coming to Auckland as planned. Apparently he has a bad wrist and won’t be playing tennis again until April. Now I haven’t seen any official word on Canas withdrawing from the Heineken Open yet, but it doesn’t look good. Which is a shame as he would have been one of the bigger stars in the draw. Beat Roger Federer twice in 2007, you know they would have announced that a lot.
Juan Monaco is someone to get excited about. Last time in Auckland he came through qualifying to make it to the quarterfinals, which proved to be the start of a great season for him. He won three titles and will be returning to the Heineken Open seeded and with a real chance to win the tournament. From qualifier to contender, that’s neat.
Thomas Johansson is someone I’m really looking forward to seeing. Winning the 2002 Australian Open is what put him in the history books, but I think of him more fondly as my buddy Winston’s player of choice in Virtua Tennis at the Queen Street arcade. Too many times has the fast running game of Winston’s Johansson bested the volleying skills of my Tim Henman.
Johansson isn’t the only Virtua Tennis alumnus coming this year. Virtua Tennis 3’s Juan Carlos Ferrero and Mario Ancic are also confirmed. Ferrero needs no introduction, he’s a former world number one and French Open winner. Ancic is a former top ten player and Auckland finalist who will be looking to get his season off to a good start after missing most of last year due to injury.
I enjoyed the name dropping thing I did for the women in the last post so I’m going to try that again for the men. I’ll be able to write more about these guys when the tournament starts, so I’ll do them justice then. But for now…
Juan Ignacio Chela, he wins a lot of matches! Jonas Bjorkman, oldest man in the top 100, plus he’s a former champ! Sam Querrey, he’s young, and tall! Jarkko Nieminen, Finland’s finest, 2006 champion! Olivier Rochus, Auckland’s favourite player, he’s tiny! Xavier Malisse, the X-Man, he gets angry! Potito Starace, the man with possibly the coolest name in tennis! Nicolas Almagro, now this guy can play! Robin Soderling, he’s good too! Hyung-Taik Lee, fighting out of Korea! Jurgen Melzer, Mr. Austria! Jose Acasuso, always performs well at the Heineken!
Plus there are famous players like Nicolas Massu, Vince Spadea and others who will be trying to make it through qualifying to get into the main draw. All in all it’s a very strong line up of talent which should make for a great tournament.
Here’s a photo of Juan Ignacio Chela. I should have said more about this guy as he may well be the number two seed if Canas doesn’t make it. He’s kind of cool looking, don’t you think?