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Kooyong tournament chasing one of "top four"

Spanish tennis player Rafa Nadal poses after an interview with Reuters in Madrid, September 18, 2012. REUTERS/Paul Hanna
Spanish tennis player Rafa Nadal poses after an interview with Reuters in Madrid, September 18, 2012. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Injured world number four Rafa Nadal is on a hit list to fill out the field for the Kooyong Classic tennis tournament, organizers said on Tuesday, as the exhibition event seeks to fight off lucrative Middle East competitors.

"We're in touch with the top four," tournament director Colin Stubs told reporters in Melbourne of negotiations to attract Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray or Nadal for the January 9-12 event.

"Nadal's a possibility and that'd be something special for us because he's never played here."

Stubs left open the final spot in the invitational eight-man field, as he announced on Tuesday that Janko Tipsarevic, Juan Monaco and Milos Raonic will join 2009 U.S. Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, Kei Nishikori and Marcos Baghdatis for the tournament.

The event has traditionally attracted a high quality field as it guarantees players three competitive matches on the same surface used at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park the following week.

World number two Federer was a regular visitor to the club in the leafy suburb close to the central city, but in recent years had preferred to build up for the Australian Open at events in the Middle East.

Nadal, an 11-time grand slam winner, has been out of action since June with a knee injury, but is hopeful of being back for the Australian Open and could be desperate for matches ahead of the season-opening grand slam.

Djokovic, who clinched the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London on Monday, is schedule to play the mixed-team Hopman Cup event in Perth from December 29-Jan 5, while Murray has been confirmed for the Brisbane tournament from December 30-Jan 6.

The Australian Open runs from January 14-27.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)

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