Delhi Open: Yuki to shoulder Indian hopes (Preview)

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) Local lad Yuki Bhambri will spearhead the Indian challenge when the third edition of the Delhi Open Challenger tournament starts at the R.K. Khanna Stadium here on Monday.

The Delhi lad enjoyed a fine run of form in the latter half of 2015 which saw him enter the top 100 in the men’s singles rankings for the first time in his career. The top seed will aim to carry on in the same vein in front of his home crowd.

With Somdev Devvarman deciding to give this tournament a miss, Yuki is the biggest Indian draw this year.

This year, though, has been disappointing for Yuki so far. He had to miss his very first tournament of the year, the Chennai Open, due to injury concerns.

He lost to Tomas Berdych in the first round at the Australian Open before crashing out in the opening rounds at his next two tournaments played on European indoor courts.

The 23-year-old will face Joris De Loore in the first round at the Delhi Open. His toughest test could be Stephane Robert, who is seeded third.

Yuki was a finalist at this event last year and will have to defend his points in order to remain in the top 100.

Saketh Myneni is the other seeded Indian. The fourth seed is in good form currently and could land a semi-final spot. He will start against Italy’s Alessandro Bega and could face second seed Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium in the semi-finals.

It was the Belgian who ended Myneni’s campaign at this event last year in the quarter-finals. With a relatively easy draw, Coppejans has a good chance to pocket his third Challenger title.

Ankita Raina will be the best bet amon the Indians in the women’s event. She is entering the tournament on the back of impressive performances at the Fed cup and the South Asian Games.

The other Indians in fray include Prerna Bhambri, Prarthana Thombare and Karman Kaur Thandi. Pranjala Yadlapalli, along with many other Indians, is playing in the qualifying draw for a place in the main draw. Both Thandi and Yadlapalli performed well at the recently concluded Australian Open. It would be interesting to see how well they would perform at this tournament.

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