Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri were the only Indians to get direct entry into the main draw of the Shriram Capital-P.L. Reddy Memorial ATP $50,000 Challenger tennis tournament that gets underway here on February 3.
The Challengers, considered the backbone of the professional game, have not been held in India with any degree of frequency over the past decade. In fact, of the 151 held around the world in 2013, 28 were in Asia with India hosting none. Chennai is hosting one after a gap of 17 years.
The field will be led by Devvarman (No. 97), and the cut-off for direct entries is No.262 occupied by Chinese Taipei’s Liang-Chi Huang.
The highest-ranked foreigner is the 23-year-old Russian, Evgeny Donskoy (129), who made the third round in his debut Grand Slam at the 2013 Australian Open and has won six Challenger titles.
Wild cards have been issued keeping in mind the fact that six of the seven players – apart from Rohan Bopanna – from the Davis Cup squad that plays Chinese Taipei in Indore over the weekend, have expressed a desire to play.
The four Indians to get wild cards are Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Saketh Myneni, India’s third and fourth best-ranked players, Sriram Balaji and R. Ramkumar.
Though Sanam Singh is two spots above Sriram in the ATP rankings at No. 394, the latter got the nod as this is his home tournament. Ramkumar got in on the weight of his impressive Chennai Open performance.
“Sanam is a talented player. But it would be unfair if we do not give it [wild card] to Sriram as he is just two spots below and this is his home tournament. Also, Sanam is only in the reserves for the Davis Cup. He can be released early in time for the qualifying which starts on Saturday. He is capable of qualifying,” said Karti. P. Chidambaram, Vice-President, AITA & TNTA.
The singles winner will take home $7,000.