Indian tennis player Saketh Myneni enters US Open main draw, achieves two firsts
Indian tennis player Saketh Myneni advanced to the main draw of the US Open after a dominant straight-sets victory in the third round of the qualifiers.tennis Updated: Aug 27, 2016 23:15 IST
The monkey is finally off Saketh Myneni’s back. After coming close in Melbourne and Paris, the 28-year-old reached his first Grand Slam main draw with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Serbia’s Pedja Kristin in the final round of US Open qualifiers on Saturday.
Fittingly, he did so in a place he calls “home away from home”. After all, it was on the American collegiate circuit that Myneni made his name. It wasn’t his first brush with Flushing Meadows either, for the Hyderabad player worked at a country club half an hour away, for five years. No wonder the ‘Saki Squad’ was in full voice at the venue.
“There was a lot of support for me and that certainly makes a difference,” Myneni told HT over phone from New York. “My family, friends and a lot of people I know were here. The US Open being my first makes it extra special. I know this place well, I’ve been around.”
It should not have taken five years for someone of Myneni’s calibre to make an ATP tour main draw for the first time. Since returning to India and the professional circuit in September 2011, Myneni’s rise to world No 143 has been steady, if a little slow. He has two Challenger titles and an Asiad gold to his name, but Myneni’s stop-start career has been plagued with shoulder and back injuries.
It has been a similar story this year. Myneni began well enough, falling one win short of making the Australian Open main draw before reaching the final of the Delhi Open challenger. Then, almost on cue, the shoulder troubles sidelined him again.
“I feel that I’ve played good tennis in the last few months but have struggled to keep my body healthy,” says Myneni. “It has been tough but I feel better now and I’m trying to play with minimum risk while still being aggressive.”
As for now, Myneni’s focus is squarely on his first round opponent, Czech Jiri Vesely. Myneni, who saw the 6’6” southpaw from close quarters during Czech Republic’s Davis Cup win over India last year, has his work cut out.
“Jiri is a very good player. I saw him play Somdev (Devvarman) and Yuki (Bhambri) and I know his strengths and weaknesses. But he is world No 48 and this is going to be a different challenge.”
If Myneni gets past the 23-year-old, he is likely to face world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the second round. Myneni isn’t thinking that far ahead though. He wants to finish the year strong and break into the top 100, so that “I won’t have this much trouble qualifying for main draws.”