Some of India’s best tennis talent will be on display at the Champions Tennis League this yearThe 2015 Champions Tennis League is only a few days away and the player line-ups have been announced. The event, which aims to bring world class tennis to the audiences in India, comprises some of the top ATP and WTA players and legends of the game.More importantly, the team format also gives the young Indian tennis brigade an opportunity to rub shoulders with top-ranked players. The local talent made a fair bit of noise in season 1, and they are all set to do so again in 2015. Here are 6 Indian players we should watch out for in the second season of the Champions Tennis League, or CTL:
#1 Saketh Myneni
Myneni hit his career-highest ATP doubles ranking of 118 this month (he's No. 122 now), and has had a strong 2015 season. He has reached at least the semifinals of his last 5 ATP Challenger events, winning the doubles title at the ATP Bengaluru Challenger in October while partnering with Sanam Singh.
The 28-year-old is no pushover in singles either, having won the Challenger event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam this year and reaching the final in Agri, Turkey (where he lost to Uzbekistan's Farrukh Dustov).
In fact, his consistency has been rewarded in the rankings too, as he is now the second-highest ranked Indian player in singles after Yuki Bhambri. At No. 173, Myneni is ranked higher than the more famous Somdev Devvarman (who is 179th), and that's certainly an achievement to applaud.
Myneni, who has been part of India's Davis Cup squad, partnering Rohan Bopanna in the doubles, has also won several laurels for the country. He took silver at the 2014 Asian games in men's doubles, partnering with Sanam Singh, and he bagged gold in the mixed doubles with current World Doubles No. 1 Sania Mirza.
Myneni won the Margaret Amritraj Award for the being best Indian player in CTL 2014, and will play for the Punjab Marshalls this year alongside top players like Greg Rudseski and Marcos Baghdatis.
#2 Vishnu Vardhan
Vardhan, who makes his CTL debut this year, will play for the league's newest team – the V Chennai Warriors. The Secunderabad-based player once held a career-high 180 ranking in the doubles, but in recent years has been a little inconsistent with his play. Partnering Indian junior Wimbledon champion Sumit Nagal, Vardhan crashed out in the quarterfinals of the Pune ATP Challenger last month.
But this year has also seen a series of strong doubles performances from Vardhan. The 28-year-old, partnered by compatriot N. Sriram Balaji, has taken titles at India F2, F9 and F10, and made the semi-finals at the Delhi Open, losing to the Italian-Japanese pair of Riccardo Ghedin and Toshihilde Matsui.
With Rainer Schuettler and Fernando Verdasco for company, Vardhan will be looking to create a splash in the doubles matches at this year's CTL.
#3 Sriram Balaji
25-year-old Coimbatore-based Sriram Balaji may have moved down significantly in the doubles rankings after hitting a career-high 180 last year, but he has put in a few noteworthy doubles displays this year. He has appeared in a slew of semifinals and finals in 2015, winning at India F2, F9 and F10 with Vishnu Vardhan and also triumphing at China F10 (with Zhe Li).
Making his CTL debut with the Mumbai Tennis Masters last year, Balaji remains with the team this year, and counts US Open winner Flavia Pennetta and Dutch ace Richard Krajicek as teammates.
He has reached the semi-finals at 5 ITF events this year in the singles, most recently at the China F10, where he lost out to local player Ze Zhang in the semis.
#4 Ramkumar Ramanathan
Ramanathan, the most promising Indian player in men's singles at the moment, is only 21 years old. The 270th-ranked player achieved his career-highest ranking of 208 in June of this year, but he has the talent to eventually crack the top 100, or maybe even the top 50.
Although he has not progressed beyond the round of 16 in his last three ATP events, the young Indian star managed to reach the semi-finals of the ITF Turkey F41 in October, beaten by Alex Molcan of Slovakia. That's in addition to winning two Challenger events in India earlier in the season, besides reaching a slew of other semifinals and finals throughout the year.
Ramanathan has Grand Slam ambitions too; he entered the qualifying draw at all Majors except Wimbledon this year, and won his first round match at both the French Open and the US Open.
While he hasn't managed to break into the main draw at a Grand Slam yet, he seems to be on the right track. Clearly, Ramanathan isn't willing to rest on the laurels of his achievements from two years ago (when he famously defeated Devvarman at the Chennai Open), and that can only be good news for Indian tennis fans.
He’ll play for the Raipur Rangers, who joined the CTL fray this year, alongside Thomas Muster, Alize Cornet and Roberto Bautista Agut. Ramanathan will look to make good use of his big forehand in the tournament; it's a weapon that has surprised many an opponent the last couple of years.
#5 Divij Sharan
Doubles specialist Divij Sharan is currently ranked 130th in doubles, most recently playing the Thai pair of Sanchai and Sonchat Ratlawatna at the Hyogo Noah Challenger in Japan, an ATP Challenger event.
Sharan’s career high ranking in doubles is 63 which he achieved during his hugely successful 2013 season. He won the ATP 250 tournament in Columbia that year with fellow Indian Purav Raja, beating the vastly experienced duo of Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Igor Sijsling. Sharan also reached the 3rd round at the US Open in 2013.
Sharan has won a couple of Challenger events in 2015 - in Italy and Turkey - and even entered the qualifying draw of Wimbledon, where he lost in the second round. The 29-year-old also reached the finals of the Pune ATP Challenger event, where he and partner Maximilian Neuchrist finished runners-up to the Spanish pair of Gerard Granollers and Adrian-Menendez Macelras.
Sharan makes his CTL debut this year, playing for the Nagpur Orangers. Alex Corretja, Feliciano Lopez and Jelena Jankovic are his high-profile teammates, and Sharan will be hoping to put his exquisite doubles skills to good use for his team.
#6 Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan
Chennai-based Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan achieved his career-highest doubles ranking of 159 last month, thanks to a string of consistent results this season. The 27-year-old’s strongest performances this year have been on home soil – partnering Indian Davis Cup player Somdev Devvarman, Nedunchezhiyan won the ATP Challenger event in Kolkata, beating the Australian pair of James Duckworth and Luke Savile.
Nedunchezhiyan has also won two separate ITF events in Chennai, partnering N Vijay Sundar Prashanth on each of those occasions. The Indian doubles partners also won the title at the India F1 in Chandigarh this March, beating the Spanish pair of Enrique Lopez-Perez and David Sanz.
Nedunchezhiyan has also won ITF events in Nigeria and Guam this season, bringing his total tally of title victories in 2015 to six.
At the CTL this year, Nedunchezhiyan will be playing for the Hyderabad Aces alongside doubles World No. 1 Martina Hingis and big-serving Croatian Ivo Karlovic. He will also have 2002 Australian Open winner Thomas Johansson for company, so clearly the Chennai lad will have plenty of veteran advice to take home from the tournament.
This article was originally published on the CTL website here.