Amritraj vs Nagal: Indian players across ages to compete in virtual tennis

With the coronavirus lockdown extended, former national champion Nitten Kirrtane has set out to keep the tennis fraternity engaged with a virtual competition.

India's Sumit Nagal in action against Croatia's Marin Cilic in the Davis Cup Qualifiers.   -  REUTERS


It may look a mere flight of fantasy, but it has some substance as well.

With the coronavirus lockdown extended, former national champion Nitten Kirrtane, who has won the World Railways tennis championship both as a player and a coach, has set out to keep the tennis fraternity engaged, with a virtual competition which covers players from Ramanathan Krishnan to Ramkumar Ramanathan.

People who have been following the game for many years do know that the two are not related. It is also known that Krishnan, who made Wimbledon semifinals twice and lost only to the eventual champions, is acknowledged as the best. Ramkumar has considerable potential as he showed by engaging former US Open champion Marin Cilic in two extended tie-breaks in the recent Davis Cup tie against Croatia in Zagreb.

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In a virtual contest, it is the number of votes, and basically the popularity of the player that tilts the balance in a match-up.

Former India tennis player Vijay Amritraj in action at the Davis Cup in 1987.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


It was the former Davis Cup captain and multiple Grand Slam champion, Mahesh Bhupathi, who weighed the singles performance of the players in Davis Cup in making the seedings list which paved the way for a 64-player draw.

Krishnan is the top seed, while Vijay Amritraj has been seeded second. Leander Paes, the Atlanta Olympics bronze medallist and an eternal Davis Cup hero has been seeded third. They are followed by Ramesh Krishnan, Jaidip Mukerjea, Somdev Devvarman, Bhupathi and Naresh Kumar in the top-8.

Rohan Bopanna who helped Nitten along with Sandeep Kirtane, in developing the idea, has been seeded 11th, as he follows SP Misra and Premjit Lall.

The last five seeds are Zeeshan Ali, Sashi Menon, Akhtar Ali, Anand Amritraj and Ramkumar.

The current No.1 in the country, Sumit Nagal, has a first round against Akhtar Ali.

The players have nothing in their hand, as the popularity swings their fortunes.

Interestingly, Nagal was stunned, in a video conversation with Somdev on social media, when he heard that he had won against Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan, but had lost to Leander Paes in another virtual event!

Sumit who took a set off Roger Federer in the last US Open was lost for words, as he could neither digest the wins against the legends, nor his defeat at the hands of Leander.

It will be interesting to see the voting pattern as the draw throws up interesting matches on the social media from Thursday.

The draw is kept long enough, perhaps to last the lockdown.

In any case, the draw, made with the help of qualified supervisor, Tejal Kulkarni, should be preserved, as it effortlessly binds the players of different eras in one sheet.

Krishnan will not lose first round, as he has a bye. But, there is no guarantee when he meets the winner of the match between Vishaal Uppal and Enrico Piperno.

That is the reality of the virtual world.

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