The draw for the season-opening Maharashtra Open, India’s only ATP 250 tournament, was announced on Saturday with a tough road for Indians in the singles. Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson is the top seed for the event, to be held in Pune, followed by Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung, after world No 7 Marin Cilic pulled out with a knee injury.
The singles field features 32 players, including three wildcards and four qualifiers with four of the eight seeds getting first-round byes. The three Indians who have received main draw wildcards – Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Arjun Kadhe – are all set to meet seeded players if they advance to the second round.
Defending champion Gilles Simon, who had stunned three seeds to lift the title as world No 89 in 2018, comes into the tournament with an ATP ranking of 30 and is seeded third. He will face the winner of the match between Ilya Ivashka and Hubert Hurkacz in the second round.
Tough road for Indians
India No 1 Prajnesh drew American rising star Michael Mmoh in the first round. It is expected to be a close contest between the two – ranked 107 and 103 in the world respectively – who are yet to meet on the tour. If he crosses the first round hurdle, he is likely to run into Spanish sixth seed Roberto Baena Carballes, who is ranked 73.
World no 133 Ramkumar will begin his campaign against Spain’s world No 97 Marcel Granollers, who holds a 2-0 advantage in the head-to-head record. The Spaniard had beaten Ramkumar when the tournament was held in Chennai in 2014 and more recently in the Challenger at Nottingham this year. The Indian, who had lost to Marin Cilic in the second round last year, will set up a meeting with fourth seed Malek Jaziri if reaches the second round.
In the top half of the draw, wildcard Arjun Kadhe will start his singles campaign against Serbia’s Laslo Djere and the winner is slated to meet top seed Kevin Anderson in the second round. The two have not played each other as yet but the world No 94 would hold the statistic advantage over the Indian who is ranked 392 in the world. However, local boy Kadhe is more experienced in the conditions and had stunned Ramkumar when playing the Challenger at the same stadium last month.
In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Hyeon Chung of Korea could face either Ernests Gulbis or Pedro Sousa in the second round. Latvia’s Gulbis, who has enjoyed a resurgent season last year, could prove to be a dark horse at the Maharashtra Open, much like last year’s winner Simon.
The big-serving Ivo Karlovic will open his campaign against a qualifier while eight seed Pablo Andujar will play Evgeny Donskoy in his opener. Meanwhile, seventh seed Jaume Munar is set to play Moldova’s Radu Albot in the opener while fifth seed Benoit Paire will start his campaign against a qualifier.
In the doubles event, Indians will have a better chance of making a deep run. India No 1 and 2 Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan, who are starting their partnership on the ATP Tour with this tournament, are the top seeds for the event. The Asian Games gold medal winning pair will take on Radu Albot and Malek Jaziri in the opener.
Phillip Oswald and Tim Puetz are seeded second, Marcelo Arevalo and Jamie Cerretani are the third seeds while Gerard Granollers and Marcel Granollers are seeded fourth.
Veteran Indian Leander Paes will team up with Mexico’s Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela with whom he won the Santo Domingo Challenger title and ended runner-up at Brest, Monterrey and Chicago in the 2018 season. They will open their campaign against David Marrero and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo.
If both Paes and the top seed Bopanna-Sharan win their openers, they will set up a second-round clash against each other.
Ramkumar Ramanathan and Arjun Kadhe have both received wildcards in the doubles draw as well. Ramkumar will partner with fellow Indian Purav Raja while Kadhe will play with N Sriram Balaji who is one of his regular partners on tour.
Kadhe and Balaji have a tough opener on their hands as they will play second seeds Oswalds and Puetz while Ramnkumar and Raja will take on Luke Bambridge and Jonny O’Mara in the first round.
The other Indian in the doubles main draw is left-handed Jeevan Neduncheziyan has entered with American Nicholas Monroe, who is ranked 65th in the world. The duo will play the fourth seeds in the first round.
The main draw of the Maharashtra Open begins on Monday, 31 December while the qualifiers are already underway.