Four Indians players will be in the main draw of the Mumbai Open beginning Monday at the Cricket Club of India’s court, but the wildcards won’t have it easy at the home tournament.
India No 1 and 2 Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi, Maharashtra’s top-ranked player Rutuja Bhosale, junior No 1 and national runner-up Zeel Desai have all been given wildcards for the main draw of the Women’s Tennis Association event. All of them will face tough opponents in the first round.
The main draw for the Mumbai Open, India’s first WTA tournament in five years, was announced in Mumbai on Sunday with all four Indian contenders present.
Indian junior No 1 Zeel Desai will have the most challenging first round match of the lot, taking on seventh seed Carol Zhao of Canada, who is ranked 150 in the world. Desai, ranked 790 in the world, said that she doesn’t feel any extra pressure to play a seeded opponent and that she is looking forward to give it her best shot.
However, Raina believed that playing a seed gives Desai an edge. “The first round matches are the same for both players so Zeel has a chance,” she said at an interaction at the Cricket Club of India on Sunday.
If Desai manages to cause an upset on the first day, the teen could run into compatriot Thandi in the second round. The 19-year-old Thandi will take on Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic, who is ranked 242 in the world. The world No 312 admitted that she hasn’t seen much of her opponent but quoting Billie Jean King, said that she is going to take it point by point.
“For me pressure is privilege and when you perform under pressure it is nice. It is going to be a good match. For this week, I look forward to giving my 100 per cent for each point,” Thandi said.
Raina, currently ranked 281, will play unseeded world No 255 Veronika Kudermetova in her first round, and has the slight advantage of played the Russian before, albeit in doubles.
“I haven’t seen her play lately but my focus is going to be on my game, play the way I want to play tennis,” she said.
Bhosale will open her campaign against 274th ranked Israeli qualifier Deniz Khazaniuk, who won both her qualifying matches to make the main draw. “She has played a couple of matches and is used to the conditions already but I have to go out there and play my best,” she said.
The one big advantage for Bhosale will be the fact that she alone of all Indians has the experience of having played, and won, a match at WTA event. As a 16-year-old, she had staged an upset at the Royal Indian Open in Pune back in 2012, beating Korea’s So-Ra Leein the first round. She had then gone down to eventual champion Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-0 in the next round.
If Raina and Bhosale reach the next round, both will run into seeded players. Raina could play Australian sixth seed Lizette Cabrera while Bhosale could meet fourth seeded Arina Rodionova.
Earlier, all four Indians in the qualifying stages failed to make it to the singles main draw. Riya Bhatia, Nidhi Chilumula, Natasha Palha and Pranjala Yadlapalli couldn’t go past their first opponent, but three of them will be seen in in action in the doubles.
In the doubles, Raina and Bhosale will team up and are set to meet Victoria Rodriguez (Mexico) and Bibiane Schoofs (Netherlands) in their first round. Thandi will play doubles with Yadlapalli while Bhatia will partner Palha. Prarthana Thombare will play only the doubles, with Japan’s Hiroko Kuwata.
The top seed at the tournament is Belrusian World No 79 Aryna Sabalenka. The 19-year-old will open her campaign against unseeded Priscilla Hon of Australia. The other big top names in action are Ana Bogdan, Naomi Brody and Yanina Wickimayer. Second seed 24-year-old Bogdan, ranked 111 will play her first round against Mexico’s 22-year-old Victoria Rodriguez, who is placed 151 places lower.
Meanwhile, Laura Robson of Great Britain, who held a career high ranking of 27 in July 2013 and currently ranked 241, will face a tight first round as she will clash with 113th ranked 28-year-old third seed Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, a former World No. 12.
Mumbai Open will be streamed live on WTA TV and telecast on DD Sport Monday onwards. The singles winner will get $20,000 (Rs 12.98 lakh) and 160 ranking points while the runner-up will receive $11,000 (Rs 7.14 lakh) and 95 points.
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