Saket to take on Youzhny in first round of Aircel Chennai Open, Ramkumar draws qualifier




Chennai, Dec. 31: India’s No. 1 ranked player Saket Myneni drew a potentially explosive clash against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the opening round of the Aircel Chennai Open that gets under way on January 2 here at the SDAT Stadium.

The country’s only other challenger in the singles, Ramkumar Ramanathan, got lucky though, drawing a qualifier for his first match of the new year.

L to R - Karti P Chidambaram, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Myreni, Casper Ruud, Carlos Sanches and Tom Annear at the Aircel Chennai Open Draw Ceremony

L to R – Karti P Chidambaram, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Myreni, Casper Ruud, Carlos Sanches and Tom Annear at the Aircel Chennai Open Draw Ceremony

In doubles, India’s top pair of Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan will take on Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and Croatia’s Nikola Mektic. The other pair of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan, however, will run into countryman Leander Paes and his Brazilian partner Andre SA.

As is the norm, all top four seeds – Marin Cilic (No. 1 seed, World No. 6), Roberto Bautista Agut (No. 2 seed, World No. 14), Albert Ramos-Vinolas (No. 3 seed, World No. 27) and Martin Klizan (No. 4 seed, World No. 35) – got first round byes. They will get into action only on Wednesday.

Saket, who was part of the draw ceremony at the VIP Lounge at the Stadium on Saturday after, looked unfazed when he realised who his opponent was. He conceded that he has to be on top of his game to drive past the highly consistent Youzhny.

“Yes, it is going to be a big challenge for me. He has been a top player for so many years,” he said.

“I have to bring out my best if I want to make a good start to 2016. I am looking forward to it,” he added.

The defending Asian Games mixed doubles gold medallist and men’s doubles silver meadallist is brimming with confidence after a highly successful year. “I was out for two months following a surgery. I had a good off-season and I am ready for 2017,” he declared.

Ramkumar heaved a sigh of relief when he learnt that he wasn’t up against a heavyweight in on the first day itself. But he also understood that he has an anxious wait ahead as his opponent will be known only on Sunday evening.

“It doesn’t matter. I will try to do my best, like I always do,” he said, referring to his unknown opponent.

He agreed that he would be aiming to pull off a few more upsets like he did last year. “That’s what everyone wants to attain, right?” he asked. “Let’s see how this year goes,” he smiled.

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