There’s hardly ever any attention paid to it. But the player kitty that dots the Indian junior tennis horizon presently, especially on the boys’ front, is quite vast.
It’s then a continuance on the solidly established foundations laid down by the likes of Ramesh Krishnan, Leander Paes, and in more recent years, Yuki Bhambri. As pointed out by Paes himself, during his brief interaction with Scroll.in on the sidelines of India’s Davis Cup outing against New Zealand in February, such wider numbers of the younger talent composition is also an ideal incentive to sharpen the scope of Indian tennis’s future. To the extent of even bettering the precedents of the aforementioned triumvirate.
Here’s then an in-depth glance at the country’s top-five junior players, of the available entirety, in accordance with their International Tennis Federation rankings:
Siddhant Banthia: ITF Rank 72
Banthia was the lone Indian player to enter the Australian Open Juniors event in January. The 16-year-old crashed out in the first round, in singles, to Russia’s Alexander Crnokrak, but reached the doubles quarter-finals with his Turkish partner, Kaya Gore.
A member of India’s three-member Junior Davis Cup squad that played the World Group Finals in Budapest in October 2016, Banthia also helped the team finish at a respectable 12th place.
Adil Kalyanpur: ITF Rank 138
At the start of the 2017 season, Kalyanpur came closer to breaking into the top-100 of the ITF rankings, when he reached the 104th spot. Nearly two months later, his ranking has, however, plummeted down to the 138th spot.
The dip in ranking aside, Kalyanpur continues to remain India’s most promising prospect for the future, thanks to his enrolment at the Rafa Nadal Academy, and a personal vouching about his talent from the 14-time Grand Slam champion and members of his coaching team, including Toni Nadal.
Currently placed outside the top-1,000 of the ATP rankings, after having attained a career-high as the world No 1772 this week, the Bengaluru native is also being seen as India’s best bet to elevate India’s place in its Davis Cup history and was included as a reserve in the Indian Davis Cup squad in its tie against New Zealand.
Dhruv Sunish: ITF Rank 140
The 17-year-old has had a good start to the year with consistent performances in each of the ITF junior tournaments he has played so far in 2017. Sunish won the singles title in the DKS ITF Juniors, a Grade 3 event held in Kolkata in January, defeating Kazakhstan’s Dostanbek Tashbulatov and reached the quarter-finals in the doubles draw, partnering compatriot Parikshit Somani. Prior to that, he also reached the finals of the ITF Grade 3 tournament held in Chandigarh in the first week of January, where he lost a narrow three-set match to Britain’s Jack Draper.
Most importantly, Sunish is also slowly inching towards a breakthrough in the ATP top-1000, peaking in the 1,083 place this week.
Parikshit Somani: ITF Rank 183
The Indian No 4 is still yet to hit his stride fully, despite consistently making it to the penultimate stages of the tournament he contests, including the three has played this season. Somani peaked in the ITF’s ranking compiling in the 174th place in January this year, though has had a slight wayward slump to drop to the 183rd place.
While the gap on his junior tennis-playing career is narrowing irrevocably, it is expected that the 17-year-old Somani, who picked up the racquet at the age of six, will take a convincing leap into the next stage of his tennis career.
Vikash Singh: ITF Rank 217
The 17-year-old shares his name with a Jharkhand cricketer and the most basic Google search throws up the latter’s name and it’s only after adding tennis as a disambiguation that the search engine chalks up the pertinent reference.
In reality, however, Singh’s presence in the forefront of Indian juniors’ names is tennis’ share of a rags to riches story and one of the rarest examples of the sport gaining a talent over its more popular peer, cricket. As Singh readies himself to garner greater goals, in the handful of years that is remaining in the juniors’ circuit before crossing over to the tougher route of the seniors’, all of his successes will then be a realistic tribute to an arduous career choice taken years ago.