ATP Challenger: Leander Paes to be the big attraction at Bengaluru Open

Paes, who is set to retire at the end of the year, is sure to be the cynosure of all eyes in this week-long tournament that begins on Monday.

The 46-year-old Leander Paes is ranked 117th in doubles.   -  R. Ragu

Tennis fans will savour the chance to watch Leander Paes in action, perhaps for one last time in the city, at the USD 1,62,000 Bengaluru Open ATP Challenger that commences at KSLTA stadium here on Monday.

Paes, who is set to retire at the end of the year, is sure to be the cynosure of all eyes in this week-long tournament. The 1996 Olympic bronze medallist and 18-time Grand Slam champion partners Australian Mathew Ebden in the men’s doubles event. The duo face the unheralded pair of Zhang Zhizhen and Blaz Rola in the first round on Wednesday.

The Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) is keen to make it a memorable occasion for Paes, with plans to host a grand felicitation function in his honour.

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In the singles section, Indian hopes rest on the shoulders of defending champion Prajnesh Gunneswaran and 2017 winner Sumit Nagal. The field suffered a setback with the late withdrawal of top-seed Ricardas Berankis owing to medical reasons. As a result, Ramkumar Ramanathan entered the seeded bracket and received a first-round bye.

‘Happy hunting ground’

“Bengaluru has been a happy hunting ground for me. I like the conditions here, although the ball plays a bit tricky. I hope to continue my good run here,” southpaw Gunneswaran (World No. 122) stated.

Nagal, who currently holds a career-high world ranking of 125, said, “My focus has shifted to playing hard-court tournaments. A good first serve, solid backhand groundstroke, and being comfortable at the net — these are things that I’m working on.”

Prajnesh Gunneswaran is the defending champion. - V. SREENIVASA MURTHY

 

The foreign contingent is led by Italian Stefano Travaglia (World No. 82), who finished as runner-up in the Bendigo 2 Championship in Australia last month. Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, who reached a career-high world ranking of 36 two seasons ago, is coming off a quarterfinal loss to Berankis in the Tata Open Maharashtra a few days ago. Third-seed James Duckworth of Australia reached his maiden ATP Tour semifinal at the Tata Open Maharashtra.

Zhizhen is the only player in the field from China, the nation worst hit by the Coronavirus.

Entry is free for the early rounds. Tickets will be issued for the semifinal and final to be held on the weekend.

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