DOHA: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and world number three David Ferrer of Spain will be put to test before a possible semi-final clash at the season-opening Qatar Open where tennis star Rafael Nadal will kick off his 2014 campaign as the top seed.
Third seed Murray, who became the first Briton to win Wimbledon crown last year since Fred Perry did it in 1936, has second seed Ferrer, defending champion Richard Gasquet of France and eighth seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain slotted in his half the draw at the $1.19m event.
Murray, staging a comeback following a three-month injury layoff, played an exhibition series in Abu Dhabi prior to his arrival in Doha yesterday.
The 26-year-old Briton will play his first-round match against Qatari wildcard Mousa Shanan Zayed but is expected to clash against Spain’s Verdasco in the quarter-finals.
Verdasco, who reached a career-high singles ranking of number seven in April 2009, admitted it was a tough draw at the 32-man event set to be played at Khalifa International Tennis Complex.
“Well, this draw is so tough. Whichever part (of the you group you play), you play the best players,” Verdasco, 30, said. “It is the first tournament of the year and I will give my best and hopefully I will be able to win all the matches that I get to play,” the Spaniard added. “I will do my best. Hopefully I will reach the last round,” Verdasco said.
Ferrer, part of the Spain Davis Cup team that won the finals in 2008, 2009, and 2011, starts his 2014 campaign against Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.
The 31-year-old Valencia-based right-handed player is expected to clash against hard-court specialist and last year’s losing finalist in Doha Nikolay Davdenko of Russia in the second round.
If the Spaniard wins his first two matches, he is expected to bump into defending champion and fifth seed Gasquet who edged Davydenko in last year’s final.
Gasquet will also have to slug it out as he is expected to play compatriot Gale Monfils in the second round.
World number one and star attraction Nadal has a date with Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic at the ExxonMobil-sponsored event.
In 2012, Rosol rose to fame after beating Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon to achieve one of the biggest upsets in the history of Grand Slam tennis.
The 28-year-old Czech said he was ‘not’ nervous going into his first match with Nadal.
“Rafa is a tough match for me in the beginning but I will give my best,” Rosol said. “I don’t feel nervous. I just want to play good tennis,” he said.
When asked about his win against Nadal last year, Rosol said: “It was good feeling to beat the number two. I hope I can continue in the same level. if things go well and if am feeling good I think I can do it again.”
Nadal could face seventh seed Ernests Gulbis of Latvia in the quarter-finals set to be held on Thursday. The event ends on January 4.
Fourth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic - who starts off against tall Ivo Karlovic of Croatia - is likely to meet sixth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the pre-quarters.
“It’s a tough one, a very tough draw,” Kohlschreiber said. “But you know anything is possible. I had a very good pre-season so I am really looking forward to it,” the 30-year-old said.
“I feel healthy and over all its just playing your game, try your hardest.
“Nobody knows what’s gonna happen. That’s the beauty of sports ... nobody knows what will happen,” Kohlschreiber said.
The German said he has his sights set on breaking into the top-20.
“I would like to go back into the top-20 and to make to another quarter-finals in a Grand Slam. I think it’s reachable and overall I am feeling healthy,” Kohlschreiber said.
The winner in Doha bags the top prize of $188,600 and becomes the world No.1 going into next month’s Australian Open, the new season’s first Grand Slam event. The runners-up takes home $99,325. The losing semi-finalists get $53,800. THE PENINSULA