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2014 starts, Australian Open beckons: Indians in the fray

Eshwar
ANALYST
Modified 09 Jan 2014, 17:40 IST
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Yuki Bhambri

After finishing the 2013 season on a high, Indian tennis players and fans alike are looking forward to continued success in the ATP and WTA tours.

This year, as it has been for the past few years, started with Chennai hosting one of the season openers at the SDAT Stadium in Nungambakkam.  It was a very good outing for our young and budding players. With Yuki Bhambri making it to the quarters of the singles draw, the only third Indian to do so in the tournament’s 19 year history, and Ramkumar Ramanathan dramatically edging top Indian Somdev Devvarman in the first round, it was a very good tournament for the Indians. The doubles draw too, had its own share of excitement. This is  where the Indians are eagerly anticipated to remain unbeaten. The Indo-Pak express, the top seeds were expected to do it. But, they lost to Saketh Myneni and Karen Kachanov in the quarter finals. Purav Raja, along with Dudi Sela and the Tamil Nadu pair of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sriram Balaji also made it to the quarter-finals before losing to the eventual finalists while Leander Paes did not take to match court as his partner Fabio Fognini could not play. Unfortunately, for Ramkumar and the scratch combination of Saketh-Karen, they failed to win their respective matches subsequent to extinguishing India’s best bets in their draws.

The second week is on with Paes and Sania losing their first round matches and Bopanna-Qureshi still fighting in the Sydney doubles draw. Somdev lost in Sydney qualifying while Yuki Bhambri has once again failed to qualify for a Grand Slam after he lost his first round qualifying match at Melbourne.

The season has just started and here we bump onto the year’s first Grand Slam! With the  Aussie Open just a few days away, we could take a look at who is going to play at Melbourne!

Indian representation is, as always, the maximum in the Men’s doubles draw. The highest seeds are Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek, seeded fifth and reigning US Open Champions. Following them will be the reunited Indo-Pak express of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Ul Haq Qureshi as the seventh seeds. The other unseeded pairs will be led by veteran Mahesh Bhupathi,  who is teaming up with American Rajeev Ram. While Paes managed to win the Aussie Open in 2012, it still remains Bhupathi’s only missing Grand Slam Trophy. Though this will be his last attempt to lift it, the odds are very much against the unseeded pair who could run into a top team in the very first round.

The rookies in the draw will be Divij Sharan and Yuki Bhambri. While Divij has made a direct entry with Taiwanese Yen Hsun-Lu, Bhambri will play with Michael Venus of New Zealand as the winners of the Asia-Pacific Wild card play-off.  Also standing a chance to enter the main draw will be the pair of Somdev Devvarman and Purav Raja who are currently placed in the alternates list.

In the Women’s Doubles, our hopes will be pinned on the newly formed pair of Sania Mirza and Cara Black.  They are likely to be seeded fifth. They performed very well in the Asian swing last year, winning the only two tournaments they entered together. Their start to 2014 witnessed an early first round loss to a wild-carded pair at the Sydney WTA Premier event. They are have set their sights on a Grand Slam and going by their performances last year, it does not seem to be an uphill task, though, their recent loss is a cause for concern.

The Men’s main draw will see Somdev Devvarman participating as a direct entry. He would also be keen on performing well after a not very good start to the 2014 season. And do not forget, our juniors  Snehadevi Reddy and Sumit Nagal will also be there.

All the best Indians!!

Published 09 Jan 2014, 17:40 IST
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