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Australian Open 2017: Indians Bhambri, Myneni play qualifiers

Saketh Myneni is India's top-ranked singles player.

Bhambri and Myneni are India’s leading singles stars; Top-200 player Myneni is the India No. 1

With no Indians in the men's singles main draw over the last few years, top Indian singles players Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni are currently in Melbourne to play the qualifying stages of the Australian Open. Action will begin tomorrow, with both players up against higher-ranked players. 

Australian Open Boys’ Singles winner Yuki Bhambri, currently ranked at 381 on the ATP World Rankings, will be up against the 117th -ranked Stefan Kozlov of the United States of America. 

Bhambri, arguably one of the country’s biggest talents on the singles stage, has in the past few years struggled with injury and form, failing as a result to replicate the results he had been used to. 

Hoping to return to fitness this year, Bhambri will tomorrow be playing Stefan Kozlov; the 18-year-old is in the best period of his career so far, and in 2016 won titles on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Kozlov is by no means an easy opponent; at the Queen’s Club Championships prior to Wimbledon last year, the American took Canadian former top-20 player Vasek Pospisil to tiebreaks in both sets the pair played in their match. 

Although he has had middling results of late, the 18-year-old could prove difficult for Bhambri, a former top-100 singles player who has often been described as India’s best singles hope. 

The 24-year-old has had serious injury struggles that have kept him out of play recently, but he came back to the 2017 season with a Round of 16 match against French ace Benoit Paire at the ATP 250 Chennai Open; Bhambri lost in straight sets, 3-6, 4-6, but took three convincing wins along the way against higher-ranked players. 

Last year, Bhambri’s best finish was an ITF title in Hong Kong, so he will want to better his performance come tomorrow.

Myneni to face German Gojowczyk

Saketh Myneni, India’s top-ranked singles player, is currently within the top 200 at 199, and will take on Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk. The 29-year-old, a former top-100 player, was at one time ranked 79th in the men’s singles.

Most recently, Gojowczyk won top honours at the Happy Valley Tournament on the ATP Challenger Tour, where he has largely been an active presence, although last year, he made the Round of 16 at the ATP250 tournament in Metz, France, going down in a hard-fought battle to Austrian sensation Dominic Thiem.

Gojowczyk last year managed to make the main draw of the Australian Open, but was eventually ousted in the Round of 128 by Spanish ace David Ferrer.

Myneni, meanwhile, will have Indian watchers rapt. After a few injury troubles, the ace made the main draw of the US Open last year, and up against former top-50 player Jiri Vesely in his first round match, took the Czech to a five-set battle that until the last moment, could have gone either way.

It was perhaps down to Myneni’s severe cramping that the Indian eventually bowed out of the match, but he firmly declared himself prior to and during that battle as one of India’s hopes in the singles. Qualifying will commence at 10:00 am Melbourne time, prior to 5 a.m. India, with qualifying matches played on a rolling basis. Both Bhambri and Myneni will be in action tomorrow, vying for a spot in the main draw of the Australian Open.

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