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‘I am here to play the best tennis I can’

Doha, Qatar: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the emperors of tennis who believe they belong to the top for as long as they wish.

The top three in the world, not necessarily in that order, have been there for some time and the Next Gen players need to be more powerful to topple them.

This is the year, they say, but they have been saying that for some time now and the senior statesmen have cared little.

While the royal triumvirate is still very much on top of their game, Stan Wawrinka, who once was the best bet to break into their ranks, is trying to hold on and aim for heights again after a series of injuries curtailed his progress, especially in 2018.

Ranked 15 now, Wawrinka this week has a great chance of adding to his 16 career titles, out of which three are from Grand Slams.

The Swiss star, a runner in Doha in 2008, opens his 2020 campaign against Frenchman Jeremy Chary on Tuesday at the beautiful courts of Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex and said he was looking forward to it.

"I've been practising hard and I am happy where I am with the first tournament of the year," Wawrinka told reporters in Doha on Monday.

"I've been training and feeling good on the court, but matches are different. I am here to play the best tennis I can," said Wawrinka.

The former US Open, French Open and Australian Open winner is looking to break into the top-10, but he knows he needs to play well consistently for that.

"I will have to play really well, the full year," said Wawrinka who could meet big-serving Milos Raonic in the semifinals.

Wawrinka lost to Roberto Bautista Agut in the last edition in Doha and his best performance is the runner-up finish in 2008, but he said he always loved playing in the Qatari capital.

"It has always been a good tournament. This year is a little different because of the ATP Cup, but I always loved playing here.

The tournament is great for the players and I am happy being here."

Meanwhile, another seasoned campaigner Fernando Verdasco too was having fun in Doha with a straight-set victory against Pablo Andujar.

Doha resident Verdasco served six aces and converted two of his five breakpoints for a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Twentytwo-year-old Russian Alexander Bublik defeated Sixth seed Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-4 and will take on Aljaž Bedene in the second round after the Slovenian defeated Sweden's MikaelYmer 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

In other first-round matches, Miomir Kecmanovic defeated Jordan Thompson 6-4, 6-2, while French qualifier Corentin Moutet defeated USA's Tennys Sandgren 7-6, 6-4.

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