Indians look to cash in as Challengers return to India

The likes of Ramkumar and Prajnesh will be eager to earn much-needed points and climb up the rankings

ATP Challenger-level tennis returns to India following a two-year hiatus with the first of two back-to-back Bengaluru Open tournaments getting underway at the KSLTA courts here on Monday.

The competition is part of a three-week swing of international men’s tennis in India that started with the Tata Open Maharashtra ATP 250. A bunch of home players will look to cash in, under familiar conditions with ample support from friends and family.

Their first such attempt, however, didn’t go well in Pune, with only Yuki Bhambri recording a match-win out of four singles main draw entrants. Bengaluru will be a chance to make amends.

Strong field

But the field is strong and credible, with two of the eight seeds in Pune making the trip down south. Czech Jiri Vesely, the top seed, is a winner of two ATP Tour titles and has a career-high ranking of 35.

Second seed Stefano Travaglia from Italy, though less accomplished, is a strong Challenger-level player with five titles. Swede Elias Ymer, who made the last-four in Pune, will be featuring too.

But Bengaluru has been kind to Indians, with Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh Gunneswaran among the winners in the event’s short four-edition history. The success set the two on the path towards achieving their then career-best rankings.

Home winners

In doubles, there has been a home winner in three of the four years, including two all-Indian pairs.

“Two events back-to-back will be very useful and motivating,” said Prajnesh, who will open against Frenchman Mathias Bourgue. “Three weeks of tennis is not something we see often in India. It is a great opportunity for us to make something special happen.”

Ramkumar Ramanathan, the highest-ranked Indian at 185, will come in with confidence, having won his first-ever Challenger late last year and backed that up with his maiden Tour-level doubles title in Adelaide and the trophy in Pune on Sunday, both with Rohan Bopanna. He will open against Max Purcell, doubles runner-up at the Australian Open.

Yuki, who is on a comeback trail, will be featuring only in doubles (with Divij Sharan), having decided to not tax his body.

Qualifying results (Indians unless specified, first round): Malek Jaziri (Tun) bt Abhinav Sanjeev Shanmugam 7-6(3), 6-3; Arjun Kadhe bt Johan Nikles (Sui) 6-4, 6-4; Sasikumar Mukund bt Adil Kalyanpur 6-2, 6-3; Rio Noguchi (Jpn) bt Karan Singh 4-6, 6-1, 6-3; Gabriel Decamps (Bra) bt Sidharth Rawat 6-2, 6-4; Steven Diaz (Can) bt Suraj R.Prabodh 6-4, 6-1.

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