The final Grand Slam of the tennis year, the US Open got underway this past Monday at Flushing Meadows, New York. About 13,500 kilometres apart, in another corner of the world, some much younger and smaller players began their own bit of tennis jousting at the HCL Tennis Junior Tour and Masters 2016.
It isn't just another tournament, rather a series of four events that will showcase some of the best players from the under-12 and under-14 categories nationally. The players are going to earn ranking points through their performances over the four legs and the top 16 singles players at the end of it all in each category (U-12 & U-14 boys and girls) are going to face off in the HCL Junior Masters to be held at the Shiv Nadar University in Noida in November. A bit like how the top players across the year take part in the season ending World Tour Finals in the ATP and WTA, except at a junior level and over the space of a month.
A Plate tourney is also being conducted for those who lose in the qualifying rounds with a lucky few from the Plate championships standing a chance of making it to the grand finale in November.
The event being held under the auspices of the All India Tennis Association as well as the respective state associations makes the tournament a good platform for the best juniors in the country to showcase their talents. Chennai hosts the first of four legs, this week at the SDAT stadium at Nungambakkam, before the caravan moves on to Kolkata (September 5th-9th), Lucknow (September 19th-23rd) and Pune (September 26th-30th).
This latest tennis competition comes on the back of the HCL Inter-School Tennis Challenge held in Delhi and Chennai over the 2015-16, both tournaments being at a city-level.
The first two days saw the competitors battle the weather more than each other as rains dampened proceedings, but with the skies clearing, Wednesday paved the way for the quarterfinals to be completed in the singles as well as get the doubles competition under way.
The notable upset came in the Boys U-12 where top seed Anmay, struggling with a foot sprain, was upset by fifth seed Aaron. The match was one of the better contests on the day with both players exhibiting good all court play. Aaron looked particularly good, showing good touch moving up towards the net to kill off points. Top seed in the Girls U-14, Kanika Sivaraman, was also upset as she lost to K S Janani. Her run though ended in the next round as the other Sivaraman sister, third seed Viveha, put paid to her hopes.
Due to the rain playing spoilsport the last couple days, and with a backlog of matches to complete, Wednesday's matches were shortened to one set, best of 15 games contests as opposed to the traditional best of three set contests.
Rain staying away, the competition should heat up with the semifinals Thursday.
Wednesday's notable results (number in brackets denotes seeding)
Boys U-14 singles (quarterfinals)
(8) Aaron Niranjan bt (1) Anmay Yogesh 8-3; (7) G. M. Rikhil bt K.S. Kavin 8-3; Pragatheesh Shiva bt Arjun Premkumar 8-7(4); (2) Ayushmaan Arjeria bt Tarun Vetrivelan 8-0
Boys U-14 singles (quarterfinals)
(1) V. M. Sandeep bt (5) Ayushmaan Arjeria 8-0; (4) Anirudh Kumar bt Rahul Dutt 8-0; (3) Kanishk Pal bt Priyatham Madhuram 8-1; (2) Rajesh Kannan bt (6) Karthigeyan 8-3
Girls U-12 singles (quarterfinals)
(1) Sweta Samanta bt Lakshmi Arun 8-4; Kundana Sri bt (5) Mekhala Manna 8-2; (7) Vaishnavi Adkar bt (4) Rijul Vidyasagar 8-1; G Priyadarshini bt Khushi Sharma 8-7(6)
Girls U-14 singles (quarterfinals)
(5) V. K. Adithi bt K. S. Janani 8-4; (3) Viveha Sivaraman bt Nivedita Shankar 8-0; (4) Joshika Premkumar bt Maithili Pravin 8-4; (2) P Sruthi bt (6) Kaviya Palani 8-1