Tennis: Grand Slam champion, Canadian star to feature at upcoming Singapore Open

The Singapore Open will be headlined by 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic (left) and Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime. PHOTOS: EPA-EFE, AFP

SINGAPORE - A former Grand Slam champion and one of the sport's brightest talents are set to feature at the upcoming Singapore Tennis Open.

The Feb 22-28 event will be headlined by 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic and Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime. Another six names - Dan Evans, Casper Ruud, Adrian Mannarino, John Millman, Alexander Bublik and Yoshihito Nishioka - have been released on the ATP website for the ATP 250 tournament at the OCBC Arena.

Cilic, Nishioka, Millman and Evans were knocked out in the Australian Open's first round but the rest are still competing at the ongoing Major in Melbourne that ends on Feb 21.

The full line-up of 28 singles players and 16 doubles pairs for the Singapore Open, along with safety protocols details and whether the event will be open to spectators, is expected to be released next week.

A Sport Singapore spokesman said the national agency is working closely with all partners to develop a comprehensive plan for safety protocols around the event. He added: "We would like to reassure Singaporeans that we will spare no effort to ensure the safety of the community."

The US$300,000 (S$400,770) Singapore Open was added to the men's circuit's calendar on Jan 20 by the ATP on a single-year licence, along with another event in Marbella, Spain, "to create increased playing opportunities, in the face of scheduling challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic".

World No. 19 Auger-Aliassime will be the top seed. The 20-year-old has yet to win an ATP title but has reached seven finals, most recently at this month's Murray River Open in Melbourne where he lost to 26th-ranked and current British No. 1 Evans.

Besides his 2014 win in New York, Cilic has reach two other Slam finals, 2017 Wimbledon and 2018 Australian Open, losing both to Roger Federer.

The Croat, 32, was once world No. 3 in 2018 but has dropped to 43. He has however, claimed 18 ATP singles titles, including one Masters 1000 victory at the 2016 Cincinnati Masters.

Businessman Sundaresan Srinivasan Iyer, 57, is looking forward to watching Singapore's first top-level ATP tournament since the 1999 Heineken Open.

"I hope that this can become an annual event. Singapore has a great tennis culture and audience here and we need to be on the global tennis map," he said.

"The field is excellent with top-notch players. Cilic is a Grand Slam winner and Auger-Aliassime is an up-and-coming player who is part of the next generation."

The Singapore Tennis Open follows other international sports events that have been staged in the Republic since the pandemic led to a string of cancellations last year.

Mixed martial arts promotion One Championship has held several live shows here since Oct 9, which have all featured foreign-based fighters.

The e-sports Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M2 World Championship in January at the Shangri-La Hotel included 10 foreign teams.

The One Championship shows and the M2 World Championship had some imported positive coronavirus cases but still proceeded smoothly with safe management measures in place to ensure there were no disruptions to the respective events.

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