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Published: Sunday September 23, 2012 MYT 12:04:00 PM

Nishikori braces for tough Malaysian Open

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia's top player Kei Nishikori of Japan will face a tough fight in the ATP Tour's Malaysian Open which begins on Monday.

Nishikori, the third seed for the event at the Putra Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, is headed in draw by the in-form world number five and top seed David Ferrer of Spain and world number 11 Juan Monaco from Argentina, the second seed.

Rising star Nishikori, the world number 17, receives a bye into the second round of the 28-player tournament as one of the top four seeds.

But lying in wait for Nishikori, who reached the last four in 2011, is a likely semi-final against Monaco and, should he win that, a potential final against Ferrer.

Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov, ranked 19 in the world, completes the top four seeds.

"I was a losing semi-finalist last year, and even then, it was difficult just to reach the top four," Nishikori said on Saturday.

"That shows how difficult this tournament is. I hope to do better this year, but there are three tough players to contend with. We shall see how it goes."

Nishikori said recently in Singapore that he needed to emulate US Open champion Andy Murray's new aggressive style of play if he is to challenge the top players in the men's game.

Spaniard Ferrer is enjoying the best season of his life. He has won five titles on the ATP tour in 2012, reached Grand Slam semi-finals at the US and French Opens and quarter-finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Ferrer took a week off after leading Spain to the Davis Cup final with victory over the Czech Republic in Gijon last Sunday.

Monaco is making his Malaysian Open debut but comes to Kuala Lumpur with three 2012 ATP Tour victories under his belt.

Brian Baker of the US, the world number 62 who made a remarkable comeback in 2011 after six years out with multiple injuries that required five surgeries, also plays in the event which has a prize purse of $947,750.

Seeds:

David Ferrer (ESP x1)

Juan Monaco (ARG x2)

Kei Nishikori (JPN x3)

Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR x4)

Feliciano Lopez (ESP x5)

Pablo Andujar (ESP x6)

Julien Benneteau (FRA x7)

Jurgen Melzer (AUT x8)

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