Indians up against strong field

A week of quality tennis and festivities unfurl on Monday with India’s top men and women players testing themselves against a strong international field in the ONGC-GAIL Delhi Open at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) complex.

For some time now, the top Indian players have been asking for Challenger events to be hosted at home. They have been dishing out good performances at the Futures level and had taken impressive strides on the Challenger circuit abroad.

When the opportunity presented itself at home, the Indian players made the most of it in the first two Challenger events at Chennai and Kolkata, both in singles and doubles.

Delhi is the last leg of this three-tournament series but holds a special attraction as it is the biggest prize money event out of the three. The $125,000 event comprises a strong field. Naturally a tough challenge awaits the Indians. The likes of Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri have shown the way in the first two Challengers. If Yuki set the tone by winning both the singles and doubles events in Chennai, Somdev gave a good account of himself in Kolkata where he reached the semis. In the doubles in Kolkata, Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh won the title. Delhi boy Yuki seemed to have developed a habit of winning Futures titles at DLTA complex and would be eager to swell his tally of Challenger titles to four here. He might have lost in the second round in Kolkata but Yuki, who last week reached a career-best ranking of 145, is confident of bouncing back.

For US-based Somdev, it would be his fifth appearance in a Challenger tournament at home and he would be eager to prove a point. With four Indians getting wildcards, there will be at least six Indians  in the main draw which has World No 93 Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakstan as the top seed, Somdev (100) is the seeded second and Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk, ranked 104  and semifinalists in 2014 Qatar Open, is seeded third. Besides, there are quite few players who were previously in the top 100, like fourth-seeded Evgeny Donskoy of Russia, who was once ranked 65, Swiss Marco Chiudinelli who had a career-best rank of 52 in 2010 and Portuguese Rui Machado, ranked 59 in 2011.

There will be a $25,000 women's ITF running simultaneously. Indian women will like to take a leaf out of the books of their male counterparts. While Ankita Raina, Prarthana Thombare and Nidi Chilimula got direct entries, the four wildcard holders combined with seven qualifiers, has led the home participation to 14 in the main draw. It will be far from easy, though. Ukrainians Olga Savchuka and Yuliya Beygelzimer, both once top 100 players, are the top two seeds while Erika Sema of Japan is the third seed.

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