Delhi Open 2016: Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni to lead the Indian pack
Somdev Devvarman and Ramkumar Ramanathan will not participate this year
The Delhi Open Challenger tournament, taking place for the third year now, starts this Monday. RK Khanna stadium will host the both the $50,000 Men’s ATP Challenger event and the $25,000 Women’s ITF event.
Bhambri looks to regain form
In the men’s field, Yuki Bhambri is the top seed and leads the Indian players. Bhambri had a stellar second half in 2015, which saw him enter the top 100 for the first time in his career. This year though, has been a disappointing one for him in terms of results.
He had to miss his very first tournament of the year, the Chennai Open, due to injury concerns. He started his year at the Australian Open, where he lost to Tomas Berdych in the first round. He lost the first round matches in his next two tournaments played on European indoor courts.
Playing at his home turf and being seeded no.1 could aid the Delhi lad in his endeavour to regain his form. He faces Joris De Loore in the first round. His toughest test could be Stephane Robert, who is seeded third. Bhambri was a finalist at this event last year and will have to defend his points in order to remain in the top 100 or close to it.
Myneni among the favourites for the title, Devvarman and Ramkumar give it a miss
Saketh Myneni is the other seeded Indian. Being seeded fourth, he would be expected to reach at least the semifinals. Considering his recent form, this does not look like a daunting task.
He lost in the final qualifying round of the Chennai Open as well as the Australian Open. He then reached the semifinals of a Challenger event in Australia, in singles as well as doubles. In the week preceding the Delhi Open, he reached the finals of the South Asian Games, where he lost to teammate Ramkumar Ramanathan.
He opens against Alessandro Bega and could face second seed Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium in the semifinals. It was the Belgian who ended Myneni’s campaign at this event last year in the quarterfinal stage. With a relatively easy draw, he has a good chance to pocket his third Challenger title.
The only other direct entrant is Sanam SIngh, who faces Robert in the first round. Wild cards have been given to national champion Sriram Balaji, Prajnesh Gummeshwaran, Vijay Sundar Prashanth and youngster Adil Kalyanpur.
Another couple of Indians could enter the main draw through the qualifying competition.
The most notable absentees are Somdev Devvarman and Ramkumar Ramanathan. Devvarman is a two-time defending champion. He will be participating at the ATP event in Delray Beach while Ramkumar is slated to enter the ATP event in Marseille as a wild card entrant.
Raina the best Indian bet
Ankita Raina will be the best bet in the women’s event. She is entering the tournament on the back of impressive performances at the Fed cup and the South Asian Games. With the confidence that she has gained from defeating a couple of top 100 opponents, she will be one of the contenders for the title. Yet, she might not be one among the top eight seeds in the draw.
The other Indians in fray include Prerna Bhambri, Prarthana Thombare and Karman Kaur Thandi. Pranjala Yadlapalli, along with many other Indians, is playing in the qualifying draw for a place in the main draw. Both Thandi and Yadlapalli performed well at the recently concluded Australian Open. It would be interesting to see how well they would perform at this tournament.
Interestingly, India started hosting ATP Challenger events in 2014 after a long gap, with three events held that year in the month of February. Last year, the Chennai event was scrapped and only two events were held. Keeping in trend, this year the Delhi Open will be the lone event in February. Even this event has seen the prize money being reduced to half of what was on offer last year.