Bengaluru, Feb 8: India’s top ranked players defending champion Prajnesh Gunneswaran and 2017 winner Sumit Nagal will have an easy outing as they earned a bye in their respective opening matches at the Bengaluru Open ATP Challenger that kicks off on Monday. Prajnesh is seeded 7th while Sumit is seeded 8th, at the draw ceremony held just before the launch of the mega event.
Photo Credits – Deepthi Indukuri
Speaking at a rousing launch ceremony held on the eve of its third edition, Mr. Priyank Kharge, former ITBT, Tourism and Social Welfare Minister, Government of Karnataka, and Chairman, Organizing Committee, Bengaluru Open was over joyous about the growth of the event in such a short span. “We have grown over the last two editions and we have seen the quality of the field getting better by each edition. Players from across 24 nations are taking part with some of them having broken the top-30 barrier at one point of their career. As many as 21 players out of a total 40 direct entries are ranked below 200.”
- 6 Indians in as direct entries, 5 wildcards – Total 11
- 20 players ranked under ATP #200
- Leander Paes to grace the courts
“We hope that this will be a great learning experience for the young tennis players in the city. It is a fantastic opportunity for the youth to see their favorite sport stars in person and experience international tennis right from the centre court. We also hope more and more youngsters take to the sport and bring our city, great pride with their victories,” he added.
On the competitive front, a main draw of 48 players will compete to lift the cup and proceed to the top of the rankings. The 48 players will comprise of- 40 players who have earned a direct entry, 5 wildcard players, two qualifiers and 1 player from special exempted category.
The Bengaluru Open offers a total prize purse of US $ 162,480 with the winner pocketing US $ 21,600 and 125 ATP points. The runner-up stands to gain US $12,720 and 75 points while the semifinalists will take home US $ 7,530 each and 45 ATP points. The winning team in the doubles will be richer by US $9,300 but more importantly 125 ATP points.
The tournament is a perfect platform for National and International players, as well as aspiring local players, to compete at an International Challenger stage, and improve their ATP rankings, and compete at Grand Slams. Prajnesh, backed by his victory in the last edition made it to the main draw of five consecutive Grand Slams while Sumit Nagal’s fairytale victory in the 2017 edition of the Bengaluru Open has helped him jump over 150 places and reach a career best ranking of 125.
“I was carrying a few injuries which hampered my performance during the fag end of the Tour. However, I am almost in good shape and looking forward to a good week here,” said Prajnesh who reached a career high of 75 last year. “Bengaluru has been a happy hunting ground for me and I like the conditions here although the ball plays a bit tricky here,” said the 30-year-old while adding “the tag of the defending champion is not playing on my mind. I intend to take a match at a time.”
Meanwhile the Bengaluru Open victory in 2017 laid the foundation for Sumit Nagal’s phenomenal run in 2019 with the famed first set win against the legendary Roger Federer in the US Open. Continuing his exploits, he not only earned his second Challenge Title at Buenos Aires but won both his singles to help India rout Pakistan 4-0 in the Davis Cup tie as well. Currently, ranked 125th and seeded eighth and has reached a career high of 125 on ATP rankings.
“The year has been good for me and I am in my best of form. The experiences at the Grand Slam have boosted my confidence which helped me win on clay as well,” said Sumit. “I love coming here. The crowd, the setting and the environment gives me a positive vibe every time I play. Hope to repeat my 2017 performance,” said the 22-year-old.
Adding to the sheen will be Indian tennis legend Leander Paes who is set to grace the KSLTA courts in what could be his last ATP event on Indian soil, post his announcement to hang his racquet at the end of the current season.
Mr. CS Sunder Raju, Vice President, Asian Tennis Federation and All India Tennis Association and Secretary, KSLTA while welcoming the gathering said that he was hopeful of an exciting end to the coveted event. “It is the most competitive field for a Challenger event that I have seen in the recent past. With both the editions having produced an Indian champion, I am hopeful our boys will continue the tradition,” said Mr. Raju while adding “We will leave no stone unturned to ensure a smooth conduct of the event so that the players take back happy memories.”
Former National coach and AITA Development Officer, Sunil Yajaman is the Tournament Director while Andrey Kornilov from Uzbekistan will be the ATP supervisor.
Meanwhile the host venue KSLTA which has hosted many National and International events including ATP World doubles championship, Davis Cup and the WTA where the famed William sisters – Serena and Venus – is all spruced up to host the mega event. With a world class facility set amidst a serene backdrop and some quality tennis, a tennis buff cannot ask for more.