Calcutta: The National Grass court Tennis Championships will get underway at the South Club from Monday without any top players. In all probability, this will also be the first time that the event will be without a single Davis Cupper.
The Doubting Thomases may say that the competition has lost its sheen. However, if viewed from another angle, the current edition provides a fair amount of opportunity to those aspiring to earn the prestige associated with winning the nationals before striving to make it big in the sport.
VM Ranjeet and Vijayant Malik, the duo who represented India in their disastrous Davis Cup campaign against South Korea, were offered wildcard slots, but both pulled out.
Under the circumstances, Sidharth Rawat of Uttar Pradesh is the top-seed, followed by veteran Nitten Kirrtane of Maharashtra and Chandril Sood of UP.
In the women’s section Ankita Raina, gets the top billing while Delhi’s Shweta Rana is the second seed after Rishika Sunkara withdrew for having returned from the Fed Cup — Asia-Oceania zone in Astana, Kazakhstan — late on Saturday. Prarthana Thombre of Maharashtra is the third seed.
Although unseeded, Olympian Rushmi Chakravarthi is being considered as the dark horse, alongside fifth seed Natasha Palha — winner of the recently concluded Central Excise AITA Grass-court Tennis Championship — and Shivika Burman, who’s coming back after a 10-month layoff due to shoulder injury.
Rawat is certainly the favourite among the men to lift the title. However, he could face stiff challenge from the likes of Sood and Tamil Nadu’s Jayaprakash Mohit Mayur, who was crowned champion of the recently concluded Central Excise AITA Grass-court Tennis Championship.
Kirrtane is viewed as a surprise element of the competition. At the fag end of his career, the 38-year-old is leaving no stone unturned to give a shot at the title.
Besides, he had also reached the Central Excise final where he lost to Jayaprakash.
“I still feel I can compete against youngsters. I believe I have a few more years of tennis left in me.
“I put in my hours of practice and head to the gym on a regular basis to ensure there aren’t fitness issues.
“Also, given my current form, I feel I should fare well in this tournament as well,” he said on the sidelines of his training session, on Sunday.