Saketh Myneni was handed a tough draw on Saturday as he has been pitted against experienced seventh seed Mikhail Youzhny in his singles opening round of the ATP Chennai Open while local boy Ramkumar Ramanathan drew a yet-to-be-decided qualifier.
India’s number one player Myneni, ranked 192 in the world, had a good 2016 year as he qualified for the US Open and it would need a herculean effort from him to make a winning start to the new season after being drawn against world number 57 from Russia.
It will not be a smooth road for Ramkumar since he is set to play two seeded players - Benoit Paire (ranked 47) and Aljaz Bedene (101) -- if he gets past the qualifier.
Last year, Ramkumar made quarterfinals beating Spaniard Daniel Gimeno Traver and then earned a walk over from second seeded South African Kevin Anderson who withdrew due to a knee injury and then beat Russian Alexander Kudryavatsev 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
“I had a good off season for 10 days before coming here. Each match at this level would be tough but I will put in my best efforts before my local fans who would be rooting for me like last year,” Ramkumar said.
Myneni looked unfazed when drawn to play Youzhny but conceded he has to be on top of his game to drive past the highly consistent Youzhny
“Yes, it is going to be a big challenge for me. He has been a top player for so many years. I have to bring out my best if I want to make a good start to 2016. I am looking forward to it,” he said.
The defending Asian Games mixed doubles gold medallist and men’s doubles silver measliest is brimming with confidence after a highly successful year. “I was out for two months following a surgery. I had a good off-season and I am ready for 2017.”
In the doubles, India’s top pair of Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan will take on Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and Croatia’s Nikola Mektic.
The other pair of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan, however, will run into countryman Leander Paes and his Brazilian partner Andre Sa.
Meanwhile, the top four seeds in the tournament, top seed and world number six Main Celic, twice winner of the title here, Spainiards Roberto Agut (ranked 14), Albert Vinolas Roma’s, Martin Klizan (Slovakia) have been granted byes.
Agut said it would be tough to get into the groove in first tournament after the off-season.
“It’s always tough, after not having practised for one or two months. But I’ve been to this tournament on number of times in the past and played my best tennis here,” he said.