Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan will continue their attempt to thresh out where exactly they stand in the country’s tennis singles hierarchy at the ATP Challenger tour event in Delhi, beginning Monday. The Delhi leg is the last of three back-to-back Challenger events in India.
Devvarman, who at one point in his career was ranked high enough (62) to be seeded directly into the ATP 250 series, is still the highest ranked Indian in the fray (and the second seed), but the Challenger series represents a level at which he should not be practicing his trade, had things gone well. Since the return from his shoulder injury in 2012, Devvarman, despite a few encouraging results, has barely broken into the top-100 again. His struggles earlier this year in the Davis Cup tie against the much lower ranked Ti Chen of Chinese Taipei were the most visible, but his status as the top Indian tennis player, for whatever it is worth, has come under scrutiny of late.
Nineteen-year-old Ramkumar, currently ranked 405 in the world, sent Devvarman packing in the first round of the Chennai Open, as did Bhambri, at a career high 145 now, in the semifinal of the Challenger event in Chennai this month. Ramkumar may still have a while to go before his ranking perks up to the levels of Devvarman or Bhambri, but has nevertheless taken big strides in the last year. He began 2013 ranked 794, but in little over 12 months, has climbed 389 places and promises to improve with time. Ramkumar, a wildcard in Delhi, will play the winner of the Kolkata Challenger from last week, Serbian Ilija Bozoljac, in the first round.
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As for Bhambri, his stated ambition is to break into the top-100 on the back of his performance in Delhi. A win here would give Bhambri 100 ranking points, taking his season’s tally to 483. This would still not be enough to carry him above the 100th spot, currently occupied by Devvarman with 553 points. Be that as it may, considering he had let his ranking slip to 593 in August 2013, Bhambri will consider a win here as a sign of defenitive progress. The task will not prove straight-forward for Bhambri, who will face 19-year old Frenchman Lucas Pouille (ranked 188) in the first round and potentially, the top-seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the quarterfinal.
Devvarman, in the other side of the draw, will play wildcard Karunuday Singh in the first round. The two other tournament wildcards were handed out to Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh.