Spotlight on young guns
Absence of top players take the sheen out of premier meet
None of the top players are in fray this time around. Men’s singles defending champion Yuki Bhambri, last year’s finalist Vishnu Vardhan and Davis Cuppers Saketh Myneni, Sanam Singh and Divij Sharan are all busy with their international commitments, making it a lacklustre field.
In their absence, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan of Tamil Nadu has got the top billing followed by State-mate Ranjeet Virali Murugesan and promising UP player Sidharth Rawat. Besides them, fifth-seeded Ashwin Vijayaraghavan, who last week won the AITA ranking tournament, holds a lot of promise.
Jeevan, who is returning from an injury, admitted the tournament is wide open. The 23-year-old spent the whole of September in Germany rehabilitating from stomach and knee injuries but feels he is ready for the challenge.
Jeevan had won a futures tournament in Madurai in April and made a clutch of semifinal appearances this year.
“I have been practicing for two weeks and physically I am doing fine now. Whether I am match fit or not, I will get to know in the tournament. National championship is a prestigious event with a lot of history. I am hoping to get a few good matches,” said Jeevan, who will open his campaign against Vijay Kannan on Monday.
“It is definitely an open field with the top five players not playing. But there is Ranjeet, who has been a former champion. Even the junior boys like Ashwin, Sidharth have done well recently.”
Ranjeet concurred that it will be a fresh start on Monday. “I have won it before but that is a past (in 2008). This is a new field and I hope to play deep here,” said Ranjeet who plays Rajat Maheswari.
In the women singles, the field is comparatively stronger despite the absence of defending champion Rutuja Bhosale, Kyra Shroff and seasoned Rushmi Chakravarthi.
Delhi’s Rishika Sunkara and Prerna Bhambri are the two top seeds while Goa’s Natasha Palha has been seeded third. They, however, cannot not take it easy with youngsters like Tarranum Handa, Simran Sethi, Shreya Pasricha and Sri Vaishnavi Peddireddy snapping at their heels.
Former junior champion Prerna, who has been in good form after winning her second ITF title recently, said she is expecting a tough challenge. “The draw is strong. But I have been playing well. Beating the two Chinese players in the ITF at Gulbarga has really boosted my confidence and I hope to carry my form here at the nationals,” said the 20-year-old.
With the prize money of Rs 1.50 lakh and Rs 1 lakh for men and women singles winner respectively on offer, it should be quite a motivation for the youngsters to produce more than their best.