Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Saketh Myneni, et al, who have so far had to travel abroad in their bid to push their rankings up will get a chance to do so at home.

The Aircel Chennai Open, an ATP World Tour 250 level tournament, has been a fixture in India in different avatars since 1996. For an Indian tennis player it is a godsend for the kind of exposure it provides.

But, the same period has seen a paucity of the $50,000 and $100,000 Challengers, which take budding players to the threshold of the ATP World Tour competitions. The last time India hosted a Challenger was six years ago.

When the city hosts the Shriram Capital-P.L. Reddy Memorial ATP Challenger, the first of the three-week Challenger Tour swing in India beginning this Monday, it will be the first move towards setting right that aberration.

As one former coach put it: “The Chennai Open is great for youngsters. But India needs more international tournaments, like Spain where players hardly venture out in need of tournaments in their formative years. Too much travelling will take its toll.”

Players and coaches, former and present, have long decried the dearth of Challengers.

The ITF Futures tournaments can ensure a ranking in the 300s, but the ascent from there needs the Challengers.

To better illustrate it, a quarterfinal finish at the $50,000 tournament fetches one the same points as a title victory in the Futures.

Spain hosts more than 30 Challengers through the year, and this is reflected in the fact that it has as many as 17 players in the top 200.

Even talking of Futures, India hosted just 11 tournaments last year whereas Egypt and Turkey, in addition to multiple Challengers, had a whopping 76 tournaments combined.

The effect of this has been that the Chennai Challenger is seeing only two home players gaining direct entry into the main draw.

From Monday, a bunch of Indians — Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Saketh Myneni et al — who have so far had to travel abroad in their bid to push their rankings up will get a chance to do so at home.

Bhambri, who is seeded seventh, will open against Hung Liang-Chi (World No.263) of Chinese Taipei, while his Davis Cup teammate Myneni will spar with Safwat Mohamed (World No.203) of Egypt.

Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan will meet a qualifier, with the winner going on to face either Devvarman or R. Ramkumar.

The last time Chennai hosted a Challenger was in 1996, and the Chennai Open started in 1997.

This is the first year in which both will co-exist in the City, marking the baby steps towards what could be a new era for Indian tennis.

Entry for the tournament is free.

Qualifying results: Second round: Mukund Sasikumar bt Hiroki Kondo (Jpn) 6-4, 6-4, Marek Semjan (Svk) bt Vijay Sundar Prashanth 6-4, 3-6, 7-5; Victor Baluda (Rus) bt V.M. Ranjeet 6-3, 7-6 (2); Michael Venus (Nzl) bt Vijayant Malik 6-3, 7-5; Sanam Singh bt Artem Sitak 7-6 (2), 6-2, Richard Becker (Ger) bt Rahul Robinson Manoah 6-1, 7-6 (4), Prajnesh Gunneswaran bt Joshua Milton (Gbr) 6-4, 6-3, Karunuday Singh bt Tristan Weissborn (Aut) 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-4.


Devvarman v Ramkumar-II todayFebruary 4, 2014

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