Chennai: India's No. 1 ranked player Saketh Myneni and Norway's tennis sensation Casper Ruud have been offered the last two wild cards for the 22nd edition of the Aircel Chennai Open, the country's longest running and most prestigious international tournament.
Chennai's local hero Ramkumar Ramanathan was handed the first one on Wednesday, when the 21-player field led by World No. 6 Marin Cilic was revealed. Four more players will have the opportunity to grace the tournament proper, starting on January 2, by coming through the qualifying rounds.
Myneni, reigning Asian Games mixed doubles gold and men's doubles silver medallist, has been one of India's most consistent performers on the global stage in recent times. He is currently World No. 194 and will lead the country's challenge in South Asia's only ATP World Tour event.
The towering Hyderabadi lad will be making his fourth straight appearance at the Aircel Chennai Open.
The 29-year-old has been an integral part of the Davis Cup team for the last two years, even helping India beat South Korea in the Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie this July, despite suffering from cramps. He will come into the tournament in good touch, making it to the main draw of the US Open and all but winning his opening round too.
"I am thrilled to get a wild card entry into the Aircel Chennai Open so early. I have enough time to prepare for it now," Myneni said. "This is India's biggest tennis tournament and I love the electrifying atmosphere at the SDAT Stadium," he added.
Norway's Ruud is just 17 years old and has been marked as one of the future players to watch out for. He started the year as Junior World No. 1 but decided to focus on senior tennis by targeting Futures Tournaments.
By February, he had won his first title, taking it in Paguera, Spain. He made it to four more finals after that, winning one of them.
Just two months back, he won his first ATP Challenger event in Copa Sevilla in his maiden attempt, becoming the fourth youngest ever player to do so. He will be making his debut at the Aircel Chennai Open and will be hoping to start the new year with a bang.
SP Misra, Chairman of AITA Selection Committee and former Davis Cup Player, said," I am delighted that two wild cards have been awarded to the top two Indian Singles Players -Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan. Both of them have played Davis Cup for India this year with great distinction. The Aircel Chennai Open gives Indian Tennis Players a chance to improve their International Ranking and prepare for the 2017 season."