National Tennis Championship: All set for action

Despite being devoid of much buzz or glamour, the national championship, which is set to begin on Monday, is valuable as a breeding ground for future Indian tennis stars.

Vishnu Vardhan, the runner-up last year and winner in 2014, will be one of the favourites to clinch the men's title.   -  R. Ravindran

The national championship is one major event, apart from the Davis Cup, when there is public scrutiny about the quality of tennis in the country. Even though there is some buzz generated by the Davis Cup, there is not much importance given to the national championship as players tend to feel that it is below their standard and thus do not find a slot for it in their personal calendar.

Some of the youngsters like Sumit Nagal or for that matter Karman Kaur Thandi, two of the bright specks trying to make the breakthrough into the big league with tons of potential at their command, have managed to stay focussed on international events.

The man who has committed to the growth of these two players, multiple Grand Slam champion Mahesh Bhupathi, won the national championship, not once, but twice in succession in 1994 and 1995 when he proved that his inclusion into the Davis Cup squad was on merit.

Times have changed, and priorities have often been misplaced. At a time when market forces drive the support of the players, it does help to have the talented youngsters stay in public view. Their bigger achievements may not evoke all that interest, as even Sania Mirza at times does not get the coverage she deserves. What chance do these youngsters have, except stay consistently hidden from public glare?

'The route to stardom'

In such a scenario, the organisers, the DCM Shriram Group, who have been committed to the growth of Indian tennis for more than two decades, albeit with different brand names like Fenesta in recent times, have been able to see the bright side and believe that the event provides the players 'the route to stardom'.

From Sania Mirza to Rohan Bopanna to recent stars like Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni, the best have used the platform to strengthen their tennis careers. The presence of former champions Vishnu Vardhan, Mohit Mayur and V. M. Ranjeet along with the evergreen champion Nitten Kirrtane, should make it a lively affair for the aspirants in the men’s event.

On the other hand, there is a promise that there will be a new women’s champion, as the champion of the last four editions, Prerna Bhambri opted out, after having placed her entry. It is very creditable to the women players and their parents that they keep travelling for tournaments abroad, trying to get better.

Thus, Riya Bhatia, Rishika Sunkara, Dhruthi Venugopal, Pranjala Yadlapalli, Sai Samhitha (the finalist last year), Eetee Maheta, Sowjanya Baviseti, Nidhi Chilumula, Shweta Rana (the finalist a few years ago), Sharrmadaa Baluu and Amrita Mukherjee may be able to highlight the women power.

The qualifying event for women was tough, and Vaidehi Chaudhari came up from a block of the draw that had Kaaviya Balasubramanian and Sabhyata Nihalani, besides Soha Sadiq.

With the junior championship also slated to be held concurrently, it should be a fine exhibition of some of the best in the game, even though the juniors do tend to get ignored in the melee.

The final qualifying rounds were still in progress in the men's and under-18 girls events late into the evening on Sunday.

The seedings:

Men: 1. Vishnu Vrdhan, 2. Mohit Mayur, 3. VM Ranjeet, 4. NItten Kirrtane, 5. Kunal Anand, 6. Dalwinder Singh, 7. Siddharth Vishwakarma, 8. Jayesh Pungliya.

Women: 1. Dhruthi Venugopal, 2, Rishika Sunkara, 3. Riya Bhatia, 4. Pranjala Yadlapalli, 5. Sai Samhitha, 6. Eetee Maheta, 7. Sowjanya Bavisetti, 8. Nidhi Chilumula.

Under-18 boys: 1. BR Nikshep, 2. Dhruv Sunish, 3. Nitin Kumar Sinha, 4. Aditya Vashist, 5. Parikshit Somani, 6. Abhimanyu Vannem Reddy, 7. Sanil Jagtiani, 8. Alex Solanki.

Under-18 girls: 1. Zeel Desai, 2. Vaidehi Chaudhari, 3. Humera Shaik, 4. Akanksha Bhan, 5. Harsha Sai Challa, 6. Lalita Devarakonda, 7. Sabhyata Nihalani, 8. Prinkle Singh.

The results:

Qualifying event (final round):

Women: Vasavi Ganesan bt Seerat Sidhu 6-2, 6-0; Sai Dedeepya bt Vibhasree Gowda 6-0, -1; Arushi Kakkar bt Advaita Saravanan 6-4, 6-2; Pratibha Narayan bt Sweta Nalekala 6-1, 6-4; Yubrani Banerjee bt Lalita Devarakonda 6-4, 6-3; Mihika Yadav bt Aarja Chakraborty 7-5, 6-2; Muskan Gupta bt Prakriti Bhanwani 6-2, 6-1; Vaidehi Chaudhari bt Sabhyata Nihalani 6-0, 6-1.

Under-18 boys: Madhwin Kamath bt Udit Yadav 6-4, 6-4; Kevin Patel bt Siddharth Thkaran 6-3, 6-0; Yugank Bhardwaj bt Shubham Gajraj 7-6(5), 6-3; Arghya Das bt Ishan Sethi 6-0, 6-0; Deepak Kumar bt Aditya Iyer 0-6, 6-3, 7-6(3); Rian Pandole bt Dev Javia 3-6, 6-2, 7-5; Divesh Gahlot bt Dharmil Shah 6-3, 6-4; Sarthak Suden bt Sai Karteek Reddy 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.