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Stanislas Wawrinka confident of defending Chennai Open title this January

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stanislas_wawrinka_1Defending Champion, Stanislas Wawrinka, will open his campaign for the new season at the Chennai Open for the third year in a row. The Swiss, currently ranked No. 17 in the ATP Tour rankings had a perfect start to the season in 2011 when he lifted his first hard court title by defeating Xavier Malisse in three sets in the Final at the SDAT stadium here in Chennai. That title triumph helped Wawrinka break back into the top 20 of the ATP rankings.

The Swiss continued his fine run by reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 at Indian Wells, the semifinals at the Swiss Indoors Basel, and the 4th round at the Roland Garros. Ironically, he lost to his compatriot Roger Federer on each of those occasions. Later this year, Wawrinka joined hands with Federer helping Switzerland to a 3-2 win over Australia in the Davis Cup World Group play-off in September.

Wawrinka, widely recognized for possessing one of the best single handed backhands on tour, will look to emulate his successful run in 2008 when he broke into the top 10 of the ATP rankings and also partnered Roger Federer to win the gold medal in the doubles event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Wawrinka's resurgence in form in 2011 was also helped by his association with Coach Peter Lundgren in late 2010.

Stanislas Wawrinka speaks to the about defending his title at Chennai Open and his preparation for the new season

Stan, you are one of the favorites to win the title here – you are the defending champion, you reached the finals in 2010, you know the courts very well, the crowd is behind you. How does it feel to be back?

I always look forward to the week in Chennai. The conditions suit my game and I have played some great matches in this stadium. The atmosphere can get very electric, the crowd is very enthusiastic and that's something I like.

How would rank the competition in the tournament this year – we have regulars like Tipsarević, Cilic and also players like Almagro and Raonic, playing the tournament for the first time?

The draw is very interesting and it will be a great tournament for sure. Tipsarevic has showed in 2011 that he is one of the contenders for the top 10 in 2012, Raonic is a young player with an impressive game who loves to play on any fast surface and will for sure cause some upsets in the next few months. Almagro is a big fighter and always a tough opponent.

You have had the perfect start to the season last year, by winning the crown here defeating Tomáš Berdych and you went on to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. You must be looking for an even better start to 2012?

I can't wait to kick off the season after working hard during the off season. I love those events at the beginning of the year and hopefully I can do as well as last year or maybe even better. Breaking back into the Top 10 would be great and is always one of my goals. I'm not that far and feel that I can do it.

How would you rate your preparation for this year? You've had a short break since Basel and no major injuries in 2011.

My preparation was great. I spent some time in Gstaad in the Swiss mountains where I did a lot of physical work. Then I went back to Lausanne where I practised a lot on the court with some Swiss players. I feel like I'm ready and well prepared.

You've played a lot against Roger Federer last year – Australian Open quarterfinals, Indian Wells quarterfinals, fourth round at the Roland Garros and semifinals at the Swiss Indoors at Basel. You have also played along with him at the Indian Wells doubles and at the Davis Cup tie against Australia. And I'm guessing you'll be pairing up for the Olympics in 2012, do you guys plan on playing more Doubles on the circuit next year?

Helping to bring Switzerland back into the World Group in Davis Cup was one of my biggest achievements in 2011. Roger has confirmed his participation for the first round tie against the USA. We haven't discussed all the details yet but we will fight hard to defend our title at the Olympics in Wimbledon. And yes, I've played him many times, maybe too many times. Hopefully the next time we meet it will be in the final somewhere ;-)

Stan will join the likes of ATP Tour's hottest rising star Milos Raonic, world no.9 Janko Tipsarevic, Indian superstar Somdev Devvarman, among others at the Chennai Open in just about a fortnight.

File Photograph Copyright: Madrid Masters