Three Indian players gain direct entry to Tata Open main draw

The inaugural edition of Tata Open will run from December 30 to January 6 at the Mhalunge Balewadi Stadium.

A file picture of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Yuki Bhambri, after the former had won a Davis Cup tie for India earlier this year.   -  THE HINDU

The wild card entries for the inaugural edition of the Tata Open, an ATP 250 World Tour tournament, were announced on Saturday, with the tournament scheduled to get underway on Dec. 30 2017. Mhalunge Balewadi Stadium will host all the matches, with the tournament concluding on January 6. Three Indian players, Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Arjun Kadhe, will get a direct entry to the main draw.

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The event was attended by Pravin Darade, Secretary, organizing committee, Kunal Kumar, Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation, Shravan Hardikar, Commissioner, PCMC and Prashant Sutar, Tournament Director.

Bhambri, who is India’s top-ranked singles pro on ATP at 116, will lead the Indian challenge at the event. The 25-year-old Delhi pro has been one of the consistent Indian players in the last one year. In November, Yuki won the KPIT-MSLTA Challenger event beating Ramanathan in the finals.

At the Citi Open in Washington, Bhambri reached quarterfinals losing to Kevin Anderson in three sets. On his way up, he beat Frenchman Gael Monfils in the round of 32 in three sets. This will be his sixth appearance in the main draw of the Indian ATP event. His best result was reaching the quarterfinals in 2014 event losing to Vasek Popisil. Last year, he reached the round of 16 making it through the qualifying rounds.

“I’ve had some good results this year and have played over 20 tournaments. The last time I came to Pune I won the event so I’m looking forward to the event,” said Bhambri.

Ramkumar Ramanathan (142) comes to the main draw after winning three titles in ITF Futures event. The 23-year old from Chennai will make his fifth appearance in the main draw of this event. His best performance here came in 2016, when he reached the quarterfinals. In the 2013 edition, ranked 789, he beat Somdev Devvarman, ranked 90 then, in the round of 32.

Kadhe, on the other hand, comes to this event winning his first-ever Futures title. On his way to the title, the Pune lad didn’t drop a single set and beat Australian Andrew Harris 7-5, 6-3 in the final of the hard court event played in Thu Dau Mot City, Vietnam. At 18, he got his first taste of the Indian ATP event playing the qualifying round of Chennai Open in 2012, losing to Kenny De Schepper in the first round.

The wild card entry should be a great motivation for the Maharashtra no. 1, who has been in great form recently. In doubles, Kadhe won two ITF Doubles title in December. Alongside Mumbai lad Aryan Goveas, Kadhe beat the pair of Oleksandr Bielinskyi of Ukraine and Russia's Ronald Slobodchikov in the final of the Egypt Futures in Cairo. Before that, the same pair beat Adrian Exposito of Spain and Diego Matos of Brazil 7-5, 6-3 to clinch the doubles title in the $15,000 ITF Futures tennis, making it three titles for Kadhe in two months.

“Being top-ranked Indian players, Yuki and Ramanathan will lead Indian challenge in singles event at the Tata Open Maharashtra. On the other hand, Kadhe is an emerging talent and this being his home ground, it would be an additional source of inspiration to do well here. We wish all our wild-card entrants the best of luck,” said tournament director Prashant Sutar.

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The organisers are leaving no stones unturned in making this inaugural event in Pune a great success. Not only have they announced a strong playing field, but they also have priced the match tickets competitively at Rs. 150 only for attracting more crowd. They are also building a fan park in the lawn adjacent to the centre court for greater fan engagement. The Mhalunge Balewadi stadium is getting major infrastructure upgrade with increased seating capacity, new locker rooms for players besides getting a revamp of the approach road to the venue, thanks to the unstinted support of the Government of Maharashtra and Pune Municipal Corporation.

The ATP 250 World Tour event will be broadcasted live on Sony SIX and Ten 2.