Saketh Myneni

Chennai, Dec 31 (IANS) India’s top-ranked singles tennis player Saket Myneni drew a potentially explosive clash against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the opening round of the Aircel Chennai Open that gets underway at the SDAT Stadium here on Monday.

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.

In doubles, India’s top pair of Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan will take on Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and Croatia’s Nikola Mektic while the other pair of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan 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 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 was not up against a heavyweight on the first day itself.

But he also conceded 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.

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 added.

    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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