Chennai: Tennis stars Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and Croatian Borna Coric will participate at the 22nd edition of the Aircel Chennai Open, the country's oldest and most prestigious tournament.
Just a day after World No 6 Marin Cilic announced his return after three years, World No 14 Agut and World No 48 Coric signed up for the season's opening ATP event, starting on 2 January at the SDAT Tennis Stadium in Nungambakkam.
Agut, who has struck a personal rapport with Chennai's fans, will be making his fifth straight appearance at one of his preferred tennis destinations.
He will start as one of the strongest challengers to Cilic, having been in tremendous form this year. He annexed two ATP titles, winning the Auckland Open in January and the Sofia Open in February to take his kitty to an impressive four.
He made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open and the French Open as well, while also featuring in the finals of the Shanghai Masters.
"I have a special bond with the Aircel Chennai Open and India's fans," Agut said today. "I am looking forward to begin the new season with doing my best at Chennai and try and break into the Top 10 as soon as possible," he added.
The 28-year-old is the youngest player from Spain after Rafael Nadal to get into the Top 20, reaching as high as No 13 in October. Agut, who lost in the 2013 finals to then World No 9 Janko Tipsarevic despite winning the opening set, is hopeful of going all the way this year.
"I have been in good form this season and hope to carry the momentum and win my maiden title here. I like this tournament as it's perfect preparation for the rest of my season," he said.
The other big draw, Coric, is an exciting young talent at just 19 years. The 2013 US Open boys' champion will be making his third appearance at the Aircel Chennai Open. He went all the way to the finals in 2016 and feels he is primed to take the big one.
"I am quite excited at returning to India. After coming so close last year, I know I have a good chance of winning the title this year. I am focused and am looking forward to winning my first ATP title," Coric said.
The Croat, just like Agut, comes into the Open on the back of a good year. He made it to the finals of two ATP tournaments and has been steadily rising in the rankings. In fact, he was even named in the coveted 2016 Forbes '30 under 30' sports list.
"Coric and Agut will make the tournament very exciting. We are expecting a formidable field this year, with some more big names being lined up," Tom Annear, Aircel Chennai Open's Tournament Director said.
"Our goal is to give Chennai and India the best tennis fare possible," TNTA president Mr Alagappan said. "I am happy that three top players have already confirmed their presence," he added.