Stars coming in, Mallise confident of defending singles title

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Chennai, Dec 28 (UNI) The spruced up Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDATN) tennis stadium is already 'full of action': the three outer courts and the picturesque centre court beckon curious onlookers with the sweet sound of the tennis ball being slammed down and hit across as a few of the players for both the main draw and the qualifying round beginning tomorrow, sweat it out before the ATP world tour Chennai Open beginning here from December 31.

Bare chested, one of the rising talents Prakash Amritraj is striving to get back into shape recovering from a wrist surgery as his Indian tennis legend father Vijay Amritraj looks on and corrects him. Defending champion, Belgian Xavier Malisse, World no 20 talented Russian Mikhail Youzhny also had some practise.

Another star in the strong field this year, Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis also arrived early and practiced to get into shape.

''My goal is to play full 12 months of tennis'', Prakash said, coming into Chennai Open again with a wild card entry to the main draw.''If you last for the full season you can play a lot of matches and gain points'', Prakash said, adding while his basic serve- volley game remained, he was concentrating on improving on his fitness every day.

Mallise said the good food and the splendid crowds draw him to Chennai Open adding ''I am confident of defending my' title. There is no pressure on me''. Mallise would also be defending his doubles title in the 2008 Chennai Open.

Baghdatis is also, by his own admission, would be concentrating on his fitness.

Frenchman Nicholas Mahut, the sixth seed this year said he was also aiming at notching up a title win as last year he failed to live up to his talent failing to convert two final appearances into title wins.

And as the action thickens over the next two days, the other top stars in fray, world no 2 Rafael Nadal, two times winner here and former French Open winner Carlos Moya and Nadal's compatriot Vidal given a wild card into the main draw again, will be arriving late tonight.

Meanwhile, Vijay Amritraj , who was instrumental in getting the ATP world tour event to India and Chennai after it was first held in New Delhi, described the field as 'very good' and there was little doubt about it. ''The field is definitely deep'', he said emphatically, talking to UNI

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