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The impressive run of Saketh Myneni and how it augurs well for Indian tennis

Eshwar
ANALYST
Modified 31 Oct 2014, 13:16 IST
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Saketh Myneni

Incredible showing by Myneni

The past one month has been one of the most significant ones in the fledgling career of rising star Saketh Myneni. He began his dream run by bagging the gold and silver medals in the mixed and men’s doubles categories at the Asian games with partners and former medallists Sania Mirza and Sanam Singh, respectively. While Sania is an established doubles exponent, Myneni has showcased some serious talent with his impressive performances at the Davis Cup (with Rohan Bopanna), Challenger (w/Singh) and futures levels. He began the season on a high note with a semi-final run at the Aircel Chennai open, defeating the Indo-Pak express en route as a wild carded pair with another promising player Karen Kachanov. 

Earlier this year, to the merry of eager countrymen, three Challenger tournaments were held in India. In a way of accentuation, the need to hold more such tournaments, Indians managed to get 5 of the six titles up for grabs. This will further boost the prospects of Indian tennis players improve their rankings and raising the country’s profile in the sport. Myneni, in tandem with co-medallist Singh, won two of those doubles titles with scintillating performances that helped them upstage many other experienced pairs including the Ratiwatana twins. 

The Andhra lad is known for his big, booming serves and good doubles play. Yet, his prowess on the singles court finally found a breakthrough only during the last two weeks when he captured a Challenger title in Indore and bowed down in the semi-finals to the eventual champion in another. His maiden triumph was further sweetened with it coming on his twenty-seventh birthday and against a former top 100 and current top 125 player. He was even the title leader towards the end of the season in 2013 in the ITF futures circuit, amassing as many six as titles.

He caused upsets in 2011

It was back in 2011 and the frenzy around the main season had almost become non-existent. The then 24-year old Myneni, as a wild card won the singles and doubles titles at a futures event in Chennai and followed it up with a few upsetting wins at the next ones too. Those were times when futures tournaments held in India would see multi-cornered fights between the likes of Vishnu Vardhan, Karan Rastogi and Yuki Bhambri. Myneni’s win came as a surprise to many in such circumstances. Yet, when someone defied these favourites at such a tournament, he immediately became the cynosure of all eyes. The following season was a moderately successful one for this lad from Andhra, which saw him win a few titles in both singles and doubles at the futures level. 2013 saw him mature as a player as he silently amassed a few titles and even beat a few top players at qualifying events during the run-up to the US Open.

All said, one cannot take this as a sure sign of success in the future. He can be a very talented player, but Indians are known to falter at such stages.  There have been many other players who have come close to promising us of a potential achiever, but have faltered at some point of time.

Other players who showed promise

In 2009, Yuki Bhambri was the junior Australian open champion. Players who were his contemporaries back then, are now well into the top 100 and are well ahead of him. Bhambri seemed to be finally maturing, after being hindered due to injuries, early this year when he reached the Chennai open quarterfinals, the third round at Australian Open (doubles) and won the two titles at the first challenger held in Chennai.  Unfortunately, he could not even successfully compete in all the three tournaments back then due to an injury. His post-injury period has yielded him good results, having managed to retain his top 200 ranking and winning two medals at his very first Asian Games.

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Sanam Singh too,was once pitted to follow Somdev as the next the American collegiate from India to garner success at the higher levels. During the early part of 2012, he won three consecutive futures in India. Later in the season, he started posting some good wins with even one over a then-upcoming Yuki Bhambri. At one point, analysts pitted him to overtake Bhambri in the race to reach the top 100.

There have been others like Vishnu Vardhan and Sriram Balaji who have had sporadic success runs, but to failed exhibit similar success consistently. An even sadder tale is that of Prakash Amritraj’s.

Long way to go for Indian tennis

In India, the home to over a billion people, there is no dearth of talent.  Yet, we fail to produce top quality players who can earn us a place in the upper echelons of the sport. Our doubles champions are truly to be commended for their contribution to the game in India. Even today, some of our players are constantly winning doubles titles at the lower levels of the sport. In their search for proficiency in singles, they lose a few years trying to succeed. Later, it is either a switch to doubles, if they are highly talented in it, or bidding adieu to the game.

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Despite such a track record, one can take respite in the fact that Indian tennis has had its own days of glory with former greats like the Amritraj, the Krishnans and their like having brought us laurels in the international arena. Our champs were once a force to reckon with in the Davis cup, with a few final appearances to their credit. Respite does not lie in just reliving those moments, but also in trying to recreate the magic. 

The current scenario bodes well for Indian tennis with many of our players slowly climbing up the rankings ladder. Yuki Bhambri has managed to retain the confidence of his fans, though he has not played up to his potential. Sanam Singh has started showing some good form since the US Open, where he played out his heart out to earn a wild card into the qualifying draw and managed to stretch the seventh seed before bowing out in the second round. Ramkumar is a promising youngster who is slowly but silently progressing in the ATP rankings.

Champions Tennis League will help Indian players

With a few noticeable performances to his credit this year, including first round wins in the Chennai Open in singles and doubles, the 19-year-old is slowly manifesting his game in the international arena. Though late in his career, Saketh has finally found a breakthrough moment. There are four Indians with rankings below 250 in singles, while seven Indians feature in the top 200 of doubles. 

Saketh Myneni, Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sanam Singh are the players to look out for in the months to come. Their rivalry would intensify in the coming months with a number of events lined up. The fight for the Asia-Pacific wild card hunt slated to take place later this year, where Indians would stand in a position of dominance. They will also have a chance to hone their skills at the inaugural Champions Tennis League to be held from mid-November. Not only will they be provided an opportunity to brush shoulders with some of the stalwarts of the game, it might also be a platform to prove their talent in the presence of the best in business. With as many as four currently well posited to enter the Australian Open qualifying rounds, Indian tennis is surely on the rise.

Published 31 Oct 2014, 12:38 IST
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