Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco will be looking to hit the ground running when the feisty left-hander takes on compatriot Pablo Andujar in the first round of the $1.4m Qatar ExxonMobil Open tomorrow.

The 36-year-old Doha resident, in his long distinguished career, has played four matches against Andujar splitting the results with the right-hander based in Valencia.

Verdasco, with 7 career titles under his belt, yesterday found himself in the top half of the 32-man draw where top seed Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and fourth seed Milos Raonic of Canada will also be looking to start the new season with wins.

“He’s a Spanish player. I think we are the only two Spanish players this year in the main draw and we have to play each other,” Verdasco said with a smile yesterday.

Qatar ExxonMobil Open: Verdasco eyes win against Andujar in ‘battle of the Spaniards’

Frances Tiafoe (third left) of USA, Spaniards Fernando Verdasco (fourth left) and Pablo Andujar (fourth right), Malek Jaziri (third right) of Tunisia, players taking part in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, pose for a picture with Tariq Zainal (second right), Secretary-General of Qatar Tennis Federation and Karim Alami (second left), Tournament Director, after the draw ceremony in Doha yesterday. (source: Peninsula Qatar)

“These things happen. At the end of the day I have to be focused on myself. I should try to start the year positively. I always want to win. This is also about putting all the work of the previous season in play in the first match,” he added.

“It is always a little bit harder (at the start of the new season). You always need a little bit time to get into the competition. I hope I will be well prepared and that I am close to 100 percent. If I win, it will be much better,” Verdasco said.

“It is never nice to play a Spanish player (smiles). We have known each other for many years on Tour. He is not the opponent I would choose (to play). Only one of use will remain in the draw (after the first round clash). I will try to do my best,” he added.

Rising Russian star Andrey Rublev (second seed), French powerhouse Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (third seed), Serbian youngster Laslo Djere (fifth seed), compatriot Filip Krajinovic (sixth seed), Frenchman Adrian Mannarino (seventh seed) and American Frances Tiafoe (eight seed) are the other seeded players to be seen in action at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex later this week.

Eighth seed Tiafoe, who faces a qualifier in his opening match, sounded confident of starting the season on a positive note.

“I have never played here before. Today is my first day. I really like it so far. The courts are nice. The stadium is pretty big. I am happy to be here,” Tiafoe said yesterday.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting year. I am starting to do the right things. It’s going to be good tennis this week. I am very excited. There are good players in qualifiers. I am excited to get out there and compete and hopefully get some wins,” the 21-year-old added.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka,  2018 losing finalist Rublev, 2012 Qatar Open champion Tsonga and Canadian star Raonic all have a bye in their first-round matches.

If Verdasco picks up a win in his first match, he is expected to clash with Raonic in the quarter-finals of the six-day tournament. If things go well then a semi-finals clash with Wawrinka is also on the cards.

Qatar Tennis Federation (QTF Secretary General Tareq Zainal, who was present at the draw ceremony, yesterday said: “We are ready to host the tournament. I think the draw has thrown up some exciting match-ups. The toughest players in the draw are the top seeds Stan Wawrinka and Andrey Rublev. But I am sure other players will be waiting to fight all the way. This is a popular event and we have the ATP Tour Award for ‘Best Tournament’ three times. The fans are already battling to get the tickets.”


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