Tata Open Maharashtra: Bhambri up against Kadhe; Cilic gets bye

Bhambri, ranked 116 in the world, had reached the second round when the ATP 250 event was played in Chennai in January 2017.

Yuki Bhambri had ended the year strongly with a title win at the Pune Challenger and a semifinal finish at the season-ending Bengaluru Open.   -  AFP

Marin Cilic sits atop what seems the heavier of the halves after the Tata Open Maharashtra draw ceremony on Saturday. The presence of three of the four qualifiers in the top half does make it a tad airy, but defending champion from the erstwhile Chennai Open, Roberto Bautista Agut, is enough to tilt the balance.

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The highly-rated French man Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who is seeded eight, is in the same quarter as Cilic. The slotting in of all three Indian main draw entrants into the same quarter as the 2014 US Open champion adds to the intrigue.

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Ramkumar Ramanathan will open against Spain's Roberto Carbellos Baena and a win will be rewarded with a show-court meeting with Cilic. Yuki Bhambri will play local boy Arjun Kadhe. Agut's biggest challenge is expected to come from Czech Jiri Vesely but he would do well not to take his potential second-round opponent, Gilles Simon, lightly.

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This being a field of 28, Cilic and third seed Agut received byes into the second round, as did Kevin Anderson and Benoit Paire, the second and fourth seeds respectively.

The quarter in which Paire finds himself in is by far the most open, with the steady Robin Hasse and dangerous customers in Blaz Kavcic, Nicolas Kicker, Marton Fucsovics and Pablo Andujar all crammed into it. The trickiest test Anderson is likely to face in the last quarter is from the seventh-seeded Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin.

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The 16-team doubles event will see as many as four Indian pairs, with the most eye-catching of the match-ups being Purav Raja and Leander Paes against 2017 champions Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan.

Meanwhile, in qualifying, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sumit Nagal advanced to the second round following straight-set victories but Sriram Balaji and Vishnu Vardhan succumbed to tight three-set defeats.

The results: First qualifying round: Thiago Monteiro (Bra) bt Sriram Balaji 3-6, 6-3, 7-5; Prajnesh Gunneswaran bt Jayesh Pungliya 6-4, 6-1; Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Esp) bt Shahbaaz Khan 6-2, 6-0; Sumit Nagal bt Divij Sharan 6-2, 6-3; Joao Souza (Bra) bt Soonwoo Kwon (Kor) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4); Ricardo Ojeda Lara (Esp) bt Sasi Kumar Mukund 6-2, 6-1; Carlos Taberner (Esp) bt Vishnu Vardhan 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (3); Ilya Ivashka (Blr) bt Franko Skugor (Cro) 6-3, 6-3.