ITF event drags players away from National championship

It will be difficult to fault someone like Riya Bhatia, if she opts to compete in the international circuit, instead of defending her national title. In fact, the 20-year-old Delhi girl had won both the national hard court and grass court women’s titles last season, and has little to prove at the national level.

Riya Bhatia is getting No.1 seeding in the $15,000 ITF women’s event in Colombo next week, so it makes sense for the 531st ranked Riya to try and improve her status in the WTA computer.   -  Arun Kulkarni

It will be difficult to fault someone like Riya Bhatia, if she opts to compete in the international circuit, instead of defending her national title. In fact, the 20-year-old Delhi girl had won both the national hard court and grass court women’s titles last season, and has little to prove at the national level.

Moreover, when she is getting No.1 seeding in the $15,000 ITF women’s event in Colombo next week, it makes sense for the 531st ranked Riya to try and improve her status in the WTA computer. It may also be remembered that Riya had spent more than a fortnight with the national team for the Asian Indoor Games in Turkmenistan and thus missed out on the professional circuit.

However, the organisers of the Fenesta National championship, who have put an overall prize purse of about ₹21 lakh for the men’s and women’s events, must be surprised to see a bunch of Indian girls making a bee line to the same event in Colombo instead of competing in Delhi from Monday.

The Colombo event looks irresistible for the Indian players, as another similar event in Thailand the same week has not attracted a single Indian player. Equally, Kanika Vaidya is the only Indian player who has entered a similar event in Egypt next week. Dhruthi Venugopal, Natasha Palha, Nidhi Chilumula, Prerna Bhambri, Ramya Natarajan and Rishika Sunkara figure in the direct acceptance list of the ITF women’event next week in Sri Lanka, apart from Riya.

There may also be about eight Indians figuring in the qualifying draw of the international event.

Of course, Prerna had won the National title four years on the trot, and hence may find the international circuit more challenging, even though she continues to be listed for the national championship.

The DCM Shriram Group that has been hosting the event from 1993, long before it was given the national championship status, and has put an attractive prize purse, with the men’s and women’s champions getting ₹300,000 each, and the runners-up, ₹200,000. That is about $4,584 for the champions and about $3,056 for the runners-up. Such money may not be within the reach of most of the Indian players in the international circuit, in which the champions get $2,352 and the runners-up $1,470, for an event with a total prize purse of $15,000.

However, the quick reduction of the prize money down the order, with the national semifnalists getting ₹40,000, the quarterfinalists ₹24,000 and the pre-quarterfinalists ₹15,000 seems to be unattractive. Not everyone can become the champion or reach the final to make it worth the effort, considering the overall expenses of travel, stay etc.

With the international ranking points being the key to growth, the players who have achieved a certain standard continue to chase ranking points. In such a scenario, it will be a great opportunity for players such as Pranjala Yadlapalli, Zeel Desai, Mahak Jain, Snehadevi Reddy, Mihika Yadav, Bhuvana Kalva etc. to capitalise on the vacuum.

Similarly, Karunuday Singh and Sasi Kumar Mukund are two of the leading men players who have opted out of the national championship after having sent their entries.

Thus, it will be Vishnu Vardhan trying to defend his title, against grass court champion VM Ranjeet, Suraj Prabbodh, Siddharth Vishwakarma, Kunal Anand, Haadin Bava, Dalwinder Singh, Aryan Goveas and former champions such as NItten Kirrtane and Mohit Mayur.

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