Tennis

Bengaluru Open returns, bigger than ever

Primed to deliver: Prajnesh Gunneswaran will be gunning for a positive finish to cap a stellar 2018.

Primed to deliver: Prajnesh Gunneswaran will be gunning for a positive finish to cap a stellar 2018.  

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Gathers further significance for players who have a shot at making Australian Open main draw

The importance of the $150,000 Bengaluru Open is lost on no one. At a time when Challenger events in India have either scaled down or disappeared altogether — Pune being a worthy exception for five straight years — the Bengaluru tournament has returned bigger than ever.

As it gets underway at the KSLTA courts on Monday, the 125 ATP ranking points and $21,600 on offer for the singles winner — against 100 points and $14,400 in 2017 — can make many a career.

The event gathers further significance for a bunch of players led by top-seed and World No. 101 Radu Albot who have a shot at making the 2019 Australian Open main draw.

With the $50,000 Pune Challenger following Bengaluru and these two being the last tournaments before the Open cut-off date of December 2, players would no doubt want to cash in.

At 144, Prajnesh Gunneswaran may not be among those with an outright chance to achieve this, but a positive finish can cap a stellar 2018 during which he won his maiden Challenger title ($150,000 event in Anning, China), beat Canadian sensation Denis Shapovolov, and reached a career-high ranking of 141 last Monday.

“I have had a good season and the last few weeks in China have gone well,” he said. “So I'm pretty optimistic. I have done enough work to hold on to the fitness that I had at the beginning of the year. So looking to play as well as possible.”

But compatriot Sumit Nagal, the defending champion, can boast of no such form. All year he has won just two main draw matches at the Challenger level, causing his ranking to plummet to the 300s. “The season has been up and down,” the 21-year-old said.

“Right now I am not thinking of either the title or the points. Just taking it match by match.”

The absence of India’s top-ranked singles players Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan will be felt, but the presence of doubles players Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Purav Raja, Sriram Balaji and Vishnu Vardhan, all ranked between 70 and 125, will make for an interesting fare.

The Indian contingent may swell yet, after Siddharth Vishwakarma and Sasikumar Mukund made it to the final round of qualifying in singles on Sunday.

Qualifying results (second round, Indians unless specified): Siddharth Vishwakarma bt Antoine Escoffier (Fra) 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3; Khumoyun Sultanov (Uzb) bt V.M. Ranjeet bt 6-4, 6-1; Sasikumar Mukund bt Lucas Gerch (Ger) 6-1, 6-4; Zizou Bergs (Bel) bt Aryan Goveas 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 11:06:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/bengaluru-open-returns-bigger-than-ever/article25469493.ece

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