India's top tennis players today hailed hosting of the three back-to-back ATP Challenger events in the country and demanded that such tournaments become a regular phenomenon on the calendar to help them climb up the ranking ladder.
The final and biggest tournament began today with the ONGC-GAIL Delhi Open, which offers USD 14,400 to the winner and 100 ATP ranking points. The events in Chennai and Kolkata were USD 50,000 tournaments.
There are not enough Challenger level tournaments in the Asian region and it becomes extremely tough for the players to travel and compete on European circuit.
India have been hosting a lot of ITF Futures tournaments throughout the year but for the players, who are outside top-150, it becomes tough to be part of the good field.
The Delhi Open has two top-100 players and six more inside top-160. AITA has awarded singles wild cards to Sanam Singh (352), Saketh Myneni (293), Ramkumar Ramanathan (407) and Karunuday Singh (483), who could not have made it to the main draw on their current rankings.
"After 2008, we are playing (back-to-back) Challengers in India, so it's nice for all of us. Every single Indian player is committed to play all three. First week, we saw eight players in main draw and four of them made the quarterfinals. Yuki won singles and doubles," India's top singles player Somdev Devvarman said.
"Last week, Sanam and Saketh won the doubles. It's not just the Indian presence but we are trying to do well which does not happen that often abroad. It's a good step forward," he added.
India's next big hope Yuki Bhambri, who won the Chennai leg, and Sanam Singh said they need such events on regular basis: "It's so good to see a USD 100,000 in Delhi itself. I would love to play here more and hope this is not just one-off (thing) and (we are) not having Challengers in the next five years. Hopefully, it happens every year," Yuki said.
Added Sanam, "It's a great opportunity. Both and Yuki and Somdev are in top-150 but there are six or seven guys who are in 250 and 500, so even for them to have some bigger tournaments here is awesome. Even if they have to go through Qualifiers, someone makes a run to the quarters, will make some jump in the rankings. This is great for players."
Veteran Rushmi Chakravarthy, who will compete in the USD 25,000 ITF event, being hosted simultaneously, also echoed the same sentiments: "Having these tournaments on one-off basis really does not help. We do have 25,000 events but it happens just once or twice a year. If you expose them to this level on consistent basis, you will find them playing good at this level," Rushmi said.
Asked if players feel the pressure of losing to a compatriot at home, Somdev replied in negative: "I enjoy playing in India in front of home crowd. Winning or losing does not come to my mind. It does not make a difference. I lose to an Indian or another player, if the guy is better than me. I lost to Yuki as he played better than me. No big deal."
Yuki, who beat Somdev in semifinals of the Chennai event, also spoke about the fast developing rivalry among the top Indian players, saying it will only make them better.
"Yes, why should we not have players coming up and competing for titles. Having tournaments like this is only going to help it. We always complain of having one or two players in the top and each and everyone of us has shown we are ready to play at this level. The more ATP events we have in the country, more players we will have shooting up in the rankings," the 22-year-old said.
Both Somdev and Yuki said the tournament will see some good competition and it won't be easy to win the title: "I am coming back slowly, starting to play better tennis. I don't want to be complacent with anything. My game has always been to work hard. I have a tough first round against KU (Karunuday)," said Somdev.
Yuki added, "It's a new tournament. A few more better players are added. The first two (tournaments) were tough, this is even tougher. Like Som said, the first round is always tricky. If I get past that, I will be playing more freely."
Meanwhile, India's top woman singles player Ankita Raina at 285, thanked all the sponsors in helping organise the event.
"It's a great thing that we have 25,000k in India. It will be a good experience since we don't get to play against such high-rank players. Good that we have a big tournament in India. It's difficult to get that abroad. I hope we have more tournaments of higher prize money and more points."
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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2014 17:52:23 IST