The fourth edition of the Pune ATP Challenger will be held at the Mhalunge-Balewadi Tennis Complex from November 13- 18, kick-starting the series of season-ending international tennis events in India.
Organised by Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association and Pune Metropolitan District Tennis Association, this ATP Challenger event will see all the top Indian singles and doubles players in action. The tournament participants were announced in Mumbai on Friday by the MSLTA.
The Indian names headlining the singles draw include Yuki Bhambri (140), who had won the event in 2014 and Ramkumar Ramanathan (148). Last year’s runner-up and current world No 255 Prajnesh Gunneswaran, will also be playing, along with Saketh Myneni who has come back after injury and therefore is ranked very low at 912. Sumit Nagal and N Sriram Balaji are among the other Indian Davis Cup players names in the qualifying.
Current world No 98 Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia and Radu Albot, ranked 86 from Moldova, will be the top two seeds at event which will see players from 16 countries.
The wildcards so far have been given to Mumbai’s Aryan Goveas (697) and Pune’s Arjun Kadhe (767). There could be a couple of special exemption players and two more wildcards given as well.
In the doubles, four out of India’s five top-100 players – Divij Sharan (50), Purav Raja (62), Leander Paes (70) and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (97) – are expected to play. Rohan Bopanna, the top-ranked doubles player, has been invited to attend the last two days of the Challenger.
Proven track record
The tournament is being held for the fourth consecutive year, making it one of the longest-serving tennis events in the country. The event also marks the beginning of a busy period for MSLTA, with the Mumbai Open next week and the ATP 250 event Maharashtra Open in January.
The purpose behind keeping the Challenger so close to the season’s end is to ensure that Indian players can benefit from the ranking points at home heading into the new season. The singles champion will get 80 ATP points, while the runners up will get 48. These points are on par with that of a $75,000 tournament.
“The cut-off makes it a very strong Challenger at this level. We expect at least eight to ten players from India to make it to ATP draws in the main and qualifying draw,” MSLTA Secretary Sunder Iyer said.
The tournament also has a strong track record for winners, according to Kishor Patil, President of PMDTA.
“The 2014 champion, Yuichi Sugita of Japan won the event and went on to make it to the Top-100 in 2015 and is currently ranked 39 in the world; our own Yuki Bhambri bagged the title to propel into the top-100. The event helped last year’s finalist Prajnesh Gunneswaran to move into the top-200 bracket and also grab a Davis Cup spot and the 2016 winner Sadio Dumbia moved into the top-125.”
Another interesting aspect is the higher tournament cut-off this year of 303, an almost 200-point increase from 500 last year, according to Iyer.
One of the reasons given for this is the facilities at the Pune stadium, which has hosted a record seven of the 12 international tournaments in the state this year. Another reason could well be the inaugural Maharashtra Open next year, which was moved from Chennai earlier this year.
The qualifying rounds will be played on November 11 and 12 while the main draws begins Monday.