Tennis: Soderling searches for claycourt boost

ESTORIL, Portugal, April 24, 2011 (AFP) - Robin Soderling will hope to put his clay season right after losing his opening match on the surface last week, with the Swede making his debut at the Estoril Open as top seed.

The event begins Monday with officials confident that the weather will stay clear until at least the end of the week after marginal conditions in recent days.

Soderling arrived from Barcelona where he was upset as third seed in his opening match by Croatian Ivan Dodig who made the semi-finals before losing to Rafael Nadal.

The two-time Roland Garros finalist did not play Monte Carlo due to injury, struggling with an on-off Achilles tendon problem.

Soderling heads a field which includes Fernando Verdasco as second seed, ahead of the French pair of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon on third and fourth respectively. Five of the eight seeds are playing at the Estadio Nacionale for the first time.

Verdasco also needs quick repairs to his game with the French Open barely a month away.

The Spaniard was a first-round loser in Monte Carlo to compatriot Tommy Robredo and did not defend his title in Barcelona due to a dispute with organisers.

Verdasco believed he was slighted by not getting a wild card into this year's edition and accused officials of preferring foreign stars instead of Spaniards.

Highlight player of this edition could well be breakthrough Canadian Milos Raonic, who has risen from just inside the Top 200 at the start of the season to a current 28th.

The 20-year-old takes the fifth seeding and starts against clay hard-man Igor Andreev of Russia.

Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro takes the eighth seeding as the Argentine begins his clay season.

The South American last played in Miami on hardcourt and bypassed Monte Carlo to rest after missing eight months in 2010 after wrist surgery.

Del Potro has only played once in Estoril, going 1-1 in 2007. He starts against a qualifier.

The women's WTA event is headed by top seed Alisa Kleybanova of Russia ahead of Jarmila Gajdosova and number three Klara Zakapaolva.

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