Top stars in the fray

Way back in February 2014, when India hosted an ATP Challenger tournament after a gap of six years, the hope in everybody — more so in the players — was for the event not to be a one-off.

In less than two seasons since then, in a clear evidence of those prayers being well-answered, India has seen eight Challengers — five in 2014 and three in 2015.

The ninth and the last, the $50000 KPIT ATP event, will get underway at the Mhalunge Balewadi Tennis Complex here on Monday.

The reason behind the plea is clear. The ATP rankings are based on the immediate past 52 weeks of performance.

Points earned in a particular week have to be equalled or bettered exactly a year later to avoid a drop. If a country hosts a few challengers in a calendar year and presents no chance for the players to defend them the next year, it forces them to go abroad often under acute financial and mental duress.

“These days the top players don’t play each other,” Davis Cup captain Anand Amritraj had told this correspondent when asked what was preventing Indian players from reaching a higher level. “They don’t want to play sets, let alone matches. It’s done in USA. They get all the players at a place and organise matches. The whole level of play goes up.”

From Monday, the cream of Indian tennis — Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni, Somdev Devvarman et al — will try and display exactly this. Top seed and World No. 99 (as on Sunday) Bhambri, fifth seed Myneni and sixth seed Devvarman have all been drawn in different quarters.

Their quarterfinal opponents could be Yannick Mertens of Belgium, British Davis cupper James Ward, who won his first Challenger since 2013 in Bengaluru, and Evgeny Donskoy of Russia who made it to the semifinals of the Kremlin Cup ATP 250 tournament last week.

THE RESULTS (QUALIFYING, FINAL ROUND): Temur Ismailov (Uzb) bt Nikki Kaliyanda Poonacha (Ind) 6-3, 6-4; Purav Raja bt Petros Chrysochos (Cyp) 6-1, 6-3; V.M. Ranjit bt Siddarth Rawat 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3; Prajnesh Gunneswaran bt Mohit Jayaprakash 7-5, 6-4.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 9:49:28 PM |

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