India’s No. 1 Saketh Myneni was handed a tough draw as he faces 2008 champion and seventh seed Mikhail Youzhny in the opening round of the Aircel Chennai Open on Monday. Local favourite Ramkumar Ramanathan had the rub of the green as he drew a qualifier as his first round opponent.
The top four seeds Marin Cilic, Roberto Bautista Agut, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Martin Klizan have a bye in the first round.
With the top half of the draw featuring three qualifiers, Croat Cilic has it easy till the semifinal where he faces a potential showdown with either third seed Ramos-Vinolas or sixth seed Borna Coric. The 2016 Croatian finalist drew a qualifier for the first round.
In a tougher second half, 2015 finalist Aljaz Bedene faces a tricky opponent in Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez. Brit Bedene has been enjoying a good streak of luck this week with Juan del Potro’s withdrawal helping him earn a direct ticket to the main draw of the Australian Open. The same luck continued in Chennai where he made it to the main draw after Spain’s Tommy Robredo pulled out of the tournament at the last minute with a foot injury.
Norwegian No. 1 and wildcard Casper Ruud, who has been promoted extensively as the youngest participant in the tournament, will play Argentinian Renzo Olivio on Monday. Should he progress, he will face the victor of the clash between Myneni and Youzhny in the pre-quarters.
Ramkumar Ramanathan played it cool after drawing a qualifier. “I will try to (cause few upsets), that’s what everyone wants. I will put my best foot forward and let’s see how the match will go,” he said. Talking about handling the pressure of being a local player, he said: “There is always pressure. I have to play aggressive and cheer the crowd. That’s the way I play.”
Saketh Myneni, meanwhile, tried to put up a cheerful facade. “Mikhail Youzhny is a very good player. I need to get the best out of myself and compete hard. I am coming back after two months, but it’s going to be a good challenge,” he said.
Tamil Nadu Tennis Association vice-president Karti Chidambaram was happy with the draw. “We have a Grand Slam Champion. We have six players in the top 50. Most importantly we have five Indian teams playing the doubles. We perhaps have the highest number of Indians participating in Chennai Open this year. Indian fans have a lot to look forward to,” he said.
With five teams featuring Indians, four of them being all-Indian teams, a tricky first round for one of the Indian teams was inevitable. Leander Paes and his 111th partner Andre Sa will face a tough challenge in Divij Sharan-Purav Raja. The Indian pair has registered one ATP tour 250 title in Mexico and featured in three semifinals in the last year alone.
Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan, who are combining for the first time in doubles, have drawn French-Belgian pair of Benoit Paire and Steve Darcis.