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23 Indians on Kolkata leg of Challengers

The last time a Challenger Tour event was held here, Jyoti Basu was West Bengal’s chief minister, Leander Paes was 25, Roger Federer a teenager and Rafael Nadal a year short of getting there. Even that, in 1998, was a $25,000 prize money event, half of what will be on offer here next week.

sports Updated: Feb 07, 2014 22:13 IST
HT Correspondent

The last time a Challenger Tour event was held here, Jyoti Basu was West Bengal’s chief minister, Leander Paes was 25, Roger Federer a teenager and Rafael Nadal a year short of getting there. Even that, in 1998, was a $25,000 prize money event, half of what will be on offer here next week.

That makes the second of three tournament Indian swing that began in Chennai and will end with a $100,000 event in New Delhi the biggest ever men’s tennis tournament here. “By the end of this year, the AITA (All Indian Tennis Association), hopes to hold six Challengers and increase the number in 2015. We have the players now, they need these tournaments,” said Hironmoy Chatterjee, president Bengal Tennis Association and CEO of the AITA here on Friday.

One of them, Yuki Bhambri, will be playing the final in Chennai on Saturday before flying in here. The others --- Somdev Devvarman, India’s highest ranked singles player at 103, Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh --- have been given main draw wild cards. All four made the quarter-finals in Chennai. The fourth wild card is with Vishnu Vardhan for winning the national grasscourt championships here last month.

Including the qualifiers, beginning on Saturday, 23 Indians will be in the fray. Ramkumar Ramanathan, who turns 20 in November and who shocked Devarman in the first round of the Chennai Open, is among them in the qualifiers. Ditto Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan. A total of 42 entries were received for the 32-player qualifiers, according to an official of the Bengal Tennis Association late on Friday. That means unless anyone pulls out, 10 could leave for home by Saturday morning.

Kazakhstan’s Aleksander Nedovyesov, 26, will be the top seed in the event where State Bank of India is the title sponsor. The Kazakh won three Challenger events last year and was a runner-up in the fourth. He skipped Chennai as did Swiss journeyman Marco Chiudinelli, 32, and currently ranked 168. Also in the fray is Alexander Kudryavtsev who will play Bhambri in the final.