By Rahul Bhutani, 30th September, 2018
The 24th edition of the Fenesta Open – the National Tennis Hard-court Championship kicks off in the capital from the 1st October. The Fenesta Open is the biggest domestic tennis tournament in the country and has attracted the interest of top players over the country. The winners list includes the likes of Yuki Bhambri and now doubles specialists Purav Raja, Sriram Balaji, Vishnu Vardhan and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan.
A Platform For Junior Players To Impress
With the U18 Nationals held simultaneously with the Senior Nationals. and the U16 & U14 the week after, Fenesta Nationals over the years have become a breeding ground for the upcoming players. The top juniors from the country play the Fenesta Nationals as it offers them a chance to catch an eye of the AITA and the top coaches and scouts. A chance to interact and to get to hit with the senior pros is another positive which has drawn the top juniors of the country to play this event. The AITA has often awarded the top junior performers a wildcard into the ATP Challenger qualifying draws and ITF events held in India.
The junior entry lists hence over the years have looked stronger than the senior entry lists and this year is no different, with the top two U18 boys Sidhant J Banthia & Megh Patel leading the boys U18 entry lists. Karman Kaur Thandi too played and won the U18 girls title in 2014 and now has gone on and become the top women player in the country
Winners from the 2017 edition (Picture Credits – TOI)
A Tale Of Weakened Senior Entry Lists
Being scheduled in the middle of professional calendar, the senior entry lists have failed to attract the top players on a consistent basis who have preffered playing on the tour to boost their rankings. A lot of top players have just been one or two time visitors to the event winning it just to earn the tag of being nationals champions and haven’t chosen to participate regularly.
With AITA consistently awarding wildcards for singles winners into the ATP Challenger or ITF events over the years, the tournament has often attracted the second tier of Indian players who use the event to get the wildcards for these tournaments. The decent prize money on offer too comes in handy for the Indian players in meeting their expenses. The winners and runners-up collect 3 Lakhs and 2 Lakhs respectively for their efforts.
The mens entry list this year has attracted Indian No.6 Arjun Kadhe who was selected as a reserve player in the Davis Cup team that played against Serbia. Kadhe started the year ranked 600 in the world and has jumped around 250 spots and is currently ranked at 348. Having lost a close quarterfinals last year to Haadin Bava, Kadhe will be itching to win the national title and cement his place as one of the top Indian singles players at the moment. Another player to watch out for will be the 19 year old Manish Sureshkumar, the Indian No.10 ranked 561 in the world. The Tamil Nadu lad started the year outside the top 1000 and has made a steady climb up the rankings thanks to his exploits on the ITF circuit this year. Other players to watch out for include 19 year olds Nitin Kumar Sinha and Abhinav Sanjeev Shanmugam, and 18 year old Dhruv Sunish.
On the women side, a repeat of last year finals between Zeel Desai and Mahak Jain looks likely. 19 year old Zeel and 17 year old Mahak are undoubtedly the finest upcoming players in the country and will be seed 1 and 2 respectively. It was Mahak, seeded five last year, who emerged victorious over Zeel courtesy of a 7-5 6-3 win in the finals. Others to look out in the draw include the talented 17 year old Humera Shaik, Mihika Yadav and multiple Fenesta Open winner Prerna Bhambri.
Sriram Balaji(a past winner at the Fenesta Open) with Prerna Bhambri(a veteran of the Fenesta Open, who will be looking to add another trophy to her arsenal)
Definite Scope For Improvement
While AITA and other state associations have been struggling to host international events owing to lack of sponsorship, Fenesta has been consistently sponsoring the national hard court championships. The total prize money on offer in the four senior draws – men and women singles & men and women doubles is over 21 Lakhs. The AITA should be able to attract the top players for the nationals provided it can schedule the event properly. These events offer an opportunity to the youngsters to interact with the senior players and learn from them.
In this regard, the Badminton and Squash nationals do attract the very best players in the country. Badminton nationals in Nagpur this year saw PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal play while the likes of Saurav Ghosal, Harinder Sandhu and Joshna Chinappa have consistently turned up for the Squash Nationals. Both Nationals followed a interesting pattern this year – 128 players qualification draw to select 8 players who would join the 8 top players in the 16 member main draw. This ensures the top player played a max of four matches while a host of upcoming players were given a chance to make it through the qualifiers and compete with the best.
It is upto the AITA though, to think and come up with ways to popularize the Fenesta Nationals and attract the top players. For now, a week of exciting domestic tennis tournament awaits the fans who will be hoping for the emergence of a few names from the courts at RK Khanna Stadium in the capital.
Humera Shaik will be a name to watch out for this year