Nalbandian to play in Auckland

Former world No.3 David Nalbandian is expected to return to the ATP tennis circuit at January’s Heineken Open, ending a nine-month layoff due to hip surgery, tournament director Richard Palmer said Thursday.

“Nalbandian is a quality player who has something special in his game as witnessed by his Grand Slam record of having reached a final and several semifinals,” Palmer said. “He’s the sort of player who has the ability to really challenge for the Heineken Open title and get back into the top 10.”

Nalbandian, who has dropped to No. 20 in the rankings, has the chance to retain the Heineken Open, from Jan. 11-16, for Argentina. Compatriot Juan Martin del Potro, the U.S. Open champion, won the tournament last year but is not returning to defend his title.

Nalbandian, 27, has made the finals of 20 ATP singles tournaments, winning 10, and has reached the quarterfinals or better of 10m Grand Slam tournaments, including his run to the Wimbledon final in 2002.

He won 14 of his 21 matches in 2009 before the surgery in May.