In-form Yuki has plenty at stake

In-form Yuki has plenty at stake

Yuki Bhambri, India's top singles player, will have plenty at stake when the Bengaluru Open ATP Challenger gets underway here at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association from Monday.

The US $100,000 tournament, biggest Challenger in South Asia, will give a great chance to the Delhiite to make the main draw of the Australian Open. The cut-off date for the rankings to decide the Australian Open entries is December 18 and this is the last Challenger before that date.

Yuki, who will jump to 122 from 137 in the latest ATP rankings to be released on Monday, is coming on the back of a title-winning effort at the Challenger event in Pune that concluded on Saturday. The Delhiite had downed compatriot Ramkumar Ramanathan in the final to collect 80 points. Ahead of the event, Yuki finds himself in a familiar territory. The 25-year-old had broken into the top 100 two years ago and qualified for the Australian Open after clinching a Challenger title in Pune.

Seeded third here, the 25-year-old begins his campaign against compatriot Sriram Balaji. Should Yuki win the tournament, it will be his seventh Challenger triumph and the Indian Davis Cupper will collect a crucial 100 points which will help him to improve his ranking further and gain a spot in the main draw of the first Grand Slam of the next year. The top 110 players get direct entry into the main draw.

Spotlight will also be on Ramkumar, who will play Hugo Greneier of France in the opening round. The Chennai lad has enjoyed a great year, rising from 227 to 150 in the rankings, and will be aiming to end the season on a high.

Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic is the top seed and he is not looking too far ahead in the tournament thanks to a foot injury. "I am focused on winning the first couple of rounds and that will put me in the Australian Open main draw. My injury didn't allow me to practice much for this competition and I will find it tough here. Yuki is in good shape and he is the number one seed according to me," he offered.

The 32-player singles draw has 11 players from India. "It's good that we are playing a lot of Challengers in India as it helps us gather points and playing top-level players is a big boost to our game," said qualifier Vijay Sundar Prashanth, who will face wild card entrant Sumit Nagal on Monday.

Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who will lock horns with Evan King of USA, is the prominent Indian in action on the first day. "It's nice to see so many Indians here. We would see many Indian players in the Futures but it is good to see this happening in a Challenger. The better one guy does, others want to catch up with him. It pushes you to do well," Prajnesh said.

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