By – Rahul Bhutani, 24th March, 2018
The Indian Tennis calendar entered the stretch of four back to back ITF futures events after the fans were treated to some high quality tennis at the Pune Open and the Chennai Open ATP Challenger. India had hosted fifteen ITF events, the lowermost tier of competitive tennis in the last two years and there has been increasing request from upcoming players to hold more such events so that the players can migrate to the Challenger levels more effectively. Bhubaneswar hosted the first tournament and became the newest city to host an ITF level tournament. This was followed by tournaments in Kolkata, Chennai and Trivandrum with all tournaments being on hard courts barring the one in Trivandrum.
Vishnu Vardhan, N Sriram Balaji and Prajnesh Gunneswaran have been dominating the ITF events in India with the trio winning three events each in the last couple of years. Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal and Yuki Bhambri too have a title to their names in the last couple of years. With Balaji and Vardhan now focussing on doubles and engaging themselves on the Challenger circuit and Yuki & Ramkumar having migrated to ATP Challenger and ATP 250 events, the set of four tournaments provided opportunities to newer players to make a mark. The Indian Tennis Daily looks at a few points that stood out in the set of just concluded four ITF tournaments in India.
Arjun Kadhe Continues To Surge Ahead
Arjun Kadhe & VSP Dominated The Indian Futures Circuit (Pic Courtesy : The CLTA)
The lanky 24 year old impressed one and all in the string of four ITF tournaments winning one and finishing runners up in two more. Arjun who returned back to the tour after sharpening his game in the college tennis in the states won the first event in Bhubaneswar beating Vijay Sundar Prashanth(VSP) in the finals. He then lost in the final of the Kolkata event to the top seeded Spaniard Carlos Boluda who again got the better of him in the third event in Chandigarh at the quarterfinals. Kadhe went on to extract his revenge over Boluda on the clay courts in Trivandrum by beating him in the semi-finals but he went down to VSP in the finals. The lanky Kadhe is now perched at around 390 in the live rankings having started the string of four tournaments with a rank of 525. With almost no points to defend until September, Kadhe can make further strides up the ranking charts and cement his place as one of the top singles player at the moment.
Sasi Kumar Mukund and Sidharth Rawat Below Par
Sasi Kumar Mukund had won three ITF titles in last two years on the Indian soil and one expected the 21 year old to dominate this Indian ITF circuit and make the move to the Challenger level. Mukund featured in just the first two tournaments and could only manage a round of sixteen and a quarterfinal showing. He choose to play the ITF tournaments in Portugal instead of the Chandigarh and Trivandrum and couldn’t go past the round of 16 in those as well. It has been a disappointing start to 2018 year for Mukund and he will be keen to get bet back to winning ways soon.
Another player who failed to live up to his billing was the Sidharth Rawat. The Delhi based player likes to grind from the baseline much like Somdev Devvarman and he had a good start to the year reaching the round of sixteen in the Chennai Open. He did reach the semi-finals in the tournament at Bhubaneswar but lost in the first round at Kolkata and in the quarterfinals in Chandigarh to lower ranked players.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran Racks Up Useful Points
Picture Credits – The Tribune
The Indian No.4 has been following a judicious strategy of mixing Challenger events with futures events in order to maintain a ranking which can help him make the main draw of Challenger events and the qualification draws of grand slams. After playing in a couple of Challenger events in Japan, Prajensh won the futures event in Chandigarh in a dominating fashion to stack up important points to make the cut for French Open qualification draw. The 28 year old was largely unchallenged and didn’t drop a set en-route to his eight ITF crown.
Sood Brothers Missing From Doubles as VSP-Kadhe Dominate
With the pair of Balaji-Vardhan having transitioned from the futures to the challengers level, it was largely expected that the Sood twins – Lakshit and Chandril would dominate the doubles draw in this ITF Indian civrcuit. However with Chandril Sood not featuring in any of the events, there was no such success in store for the twins. IT was however the pair of Arjun Kadhe and VSP who dominated the doubles with three titles and a runners up position .
Young Players To Watch Out For
The ITF circuit is particularly important for the junior and upcoming players as it provides them with an opportunity to rub shoulders with the senior players and this set of tournaments was no different. 18 year old Manish Suresh Kumar reached the quarterfinals of the clay tournament in Trivandrum and round of 16 in Chandigarh and Kolkata. Another Tamil Nadu player Abhinav Sanjeev Shanmugam who had qualified for the Chennai Open and made the round of 16 too reached quarterfinals in Trivandrum. Another 18 year old Dhruv Sunish too made the quarterfinals in Bhubaneswar beating top ranked Sasi Mukund on the way. Nitin Kumar Sinha is another name to watch out for in the coming times
In conclusion it was another great string of ITF futures events for the Indian players with Arjun Kadhe, VSP and Prajnesh winning singles titles. A string of ITF events are lined up Uzbekistan and Nigeria in the coming moments and these events should see a good Indian participation as the players continue their jostle for the points. The likes of Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh Gunneswaran could also been also play some futures events to balance their rankings. The Indian ITF circuit should be back later in the year for its Tamil Nadu leg – Chennai and Coimbatore as has been the case in last two years.