Marin Cilic will headline a strong singles field at the fifth edition of the Tata Open Maharashtra along with 16 other top-100 players when South Asia's only ATP 250 event returns to the opening week of the calendar and kicks off at the Balewadi Stadium here on December 31.
The 2014 US Open Champion, Cilic has won this tournament twice, in 2009 and 2010, and also reached the semifinals in 2018. He would look to add another trophy to his cabinet.
The last two editions of the tournament were held in the first week of February. However, now the players can gear up for the season's first Grand Slam - Australian Open, by competing in Pune. MSLTA will host the tournament, which is sponsored by Tata Group, in association with the Government of Maharashtra.
"Hosting Tata Open Maharashtra is a great pride not just for Maharashtra but also for the country. The upcoming edition will be a celebration of five glorious years of tennis in Pune. The tournament returning to the first week of January is really satisfying for us as the organisers because there will be more exciting competition in the presence of bigger names and this singles acceptance list reflects the same. We are looking forward to welcoming all the players, officials and fans to make this fifth edition even more special," said Prashant Sutar, Tournament Director of Tata Open Maharashtra.
Apart from Croatia's Cilic, the singles main draw will feature five other top-50 players -- Netherlands' Botic van de Zandschulp (ranked 35), Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori (ranked 40), Argentine Sebastian Baez (ranked 43), American Jenson Brooksby (48) and Slovakia's Alex Molcan (50).
The highly-competitive field also consists of 11 other top-100 players with the cut-off standing at 115 for direct entry.
Zandschulp competed in all four Majors in the 2022 season, losing the Wimbledon pre-quarterfinals and the Roland Garros Round of 32 to Rafael Nadal. He also ended as a runner-up at the Munich ATP 250, his best show of the season.
"We are proud to say that we have left no stone unturned in making the tournament a success for all the stakeholders. It's a competitive field this year with a lot of international talent coming into Pune. I am sure the players, their coaches and the officials will have a good time in Pune," said Organising Secretary Pravin Darade, who is also an IAS officer and Principal Secretary, Environment, Government of Maharashtra.
Last edition's runner-up Ruusuvuori made good progress through the year, taking three wins over top-20 players while Baez featured in three ATP 250 events in the first half of the season, winning in Estoril and finishing runner-up in Bastad and Santiago. Brooksby also had reasonable success as he reached two finals (Dallas and Atlanta) and would look to go the full distance in Pune.
Molcan, a southpaw, managed to reach finals in Lyon and Marrakech, where he recorded a stunning win over top-10 Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The qualifying event will begin on December 31 while the main draw will be played from January 2-7.