Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray kickstarts his 2017 ATP World Tour campaign in Doha, and the world number one will be looking to strengthen his lead over Novak Djokovic at the top of the pile heading into the Australian Open.
However, in Melbourne, Djokovic will defend 2,000 points as the two-time defending champion and Murray will defend 1200 points as the runner-up. Nonetheless, Murray's real threat of hanging onto his world number one ranking will be in the second half of the season, where he accumulated most of his points and Djokovic surprisingly stumbled following the conclusion of the US Open, despite having a great first half of to the season.
Jeremy Chardy, the former world number 25 has been a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open back in 2013, but the Frenchman has suffered from injury and poor form that has seen his ranking drop drastically to a low 69.
Murray will be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II due to his achievements in tennis and he will be known as "Sir Andy Murray" once that occurs. The Brit reigned supreme in Doha in 2008 and 2009, and is returning to Doha for the first time since 2014, as he said that he wanted to break up the journey from travelling to Australia by stopping off in Doha as it is half way to Australia instead of travelling directly from the UK to Australia.
Murray's possible route to the final
The top seed begins his campaign against Chardy, and should the reigning Wimbledon champion defeat the Frenchman, he will face Chardy's compatriot Paul-Henri Mathieu or Gerard Melzer in the second round.
The Seventh seed Philipp Kohlschreiber or former top ten player and four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Nicolas Almagro could await in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Murray could face the third seed Tomas Berdych or fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals and a potential mouthwatering showdown clash with Novak Djokovic in the final is what plenty of the tennis fans around the world are hoping for.
Chardy's notable results in 2016
Chardy's season in 2016 wasn't anything to shout about, and the Frenchman recorded a 27-27 win-loss record which he would have been disappointed with. On the other hand, injuries played a part in his unfortunate slide down the rankings. The world number 69 lost in the second round of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open losing to Andrey Kuznetsov, Steve Johnson and Grigor Dimitrov respectively and his best result at a slam in 2016 was at his home slam, the French Open losing to 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in the third round.
One of the least popular players out of his compatriots, Chardy reached four quarterfinals but they were all at ATP 250 level, despite starting the year brightly with two of those quarterfinal finishes coming in Doha last year, Sydney the following week, Delray Beach and in Umag.
Murray and Chardy have met on nine occasions, and the Brit has dominated their meetings by having a commanding 8-1 lead. Furthermore, Murray leads 5-1 on hard courts and 3-0 on clay. For a little bit of trivia, this will be their first meeting outside of a Grand Slam or Masters 1000 event.
Murray recorded four consecutive victories over Chardy starting in Montreal, 6-4, 6-2 in 2009, this was followed by a three set victory in Cincinnati in 2010, and in Shanghai in straight sets the same year, and once again in straight sets at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris in 2011. There was some joy for Chardy, as he defeated Murray for the first time in Cincinnati, 6-4, 6-4 in 2012 to reach the quarterfinals.
The world number one defeated Chardy for the fifth time and first time since 2011 in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in 2013, and he went on to reach the final in Melbourne for the third time losing to Novak Djokovic. The Brit defeated Chardy for the sixth time in Rome, 6-4, 6-3 in 2015, and the Frenchman was not pleased with Murray for withdrawing from the tournament citing "exhaustion", a week after his triumph in Madrid and prevailing in Munich as well. However, the duo would meet a few weeks later at the French Open with Murray winning in four sets, and once again they met in Rome last year with the Brit coming out on top 6-0, 6-4.
Despite this being both players first competitive match in 2017, Murray has already competed this year at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi losing to David Goffin in the semifinals in straight sets but defeated Milos Raonic in a repeat of their Wimbledon final in straight sets to finish in third place at the exhibition warmup event.
Murray has also competed at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open already in the doubles event but he fell short in the first round with his partner Mariusz Frystenberg losing to the experienced pairing of David Marrero and Nenad Zimonjic.
However, in this contest with Chardy, Murray will be the overwhelming favourite to win his first competitive singles match of the year as Murray's first serve and second serve have improved immensely which gave him success during the second half of the 2016 season, and the world number one is one of the best returners in the world.
Chardy's got a good first serve which can do some damage, and the Frenchman surprised a few people by reaching the semifinals at the Rogers Cup in Montreal in 2015, and the former Australian Open quarterfinalist can hit heavy forehands from the baseline, and he is a good returner in his own right, on the other hand, he is prone to making silly mistakes, and therefore, that is where the match will be lost for Chardy. This will be a good test for Murray starting 2017, and this will be the third match scheduled on Centre Court.
Prediction: Murray in straight sets