Pune: Tata Open Maharashtra, South Asia’s only ATP Tour tournament, owned by IMG and operated by RISE Worldwide in India, is all set to make its much-anticipated return at Pune’s Balewadi Stadium with its 4th edition, scheduled from January 31 to February 6.
The prestigious tournament, organised by Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association, which couldn’t take place last year due to COVID-19 Pandemic, is one of the oldest tournaments in Indian sporting history and has lived up to the tag of fans’ favourite every time. This year’s edition too promises to bring fans a week packed with exciting tennis action in the presence of some of the most prominent names from the tennis world.
With players from across the world fighting for the prestigious title, here are the top 5 singles players to look out for at the upcoming edition.
1) Aslan Karatsev (Russia)
Currently ranked 20 in the world, Aslan Karatsev is the highest ranked player to feature at this year’s Tata Open Maharashtra.
Born in Vladikavkaz, Russia, Karatsev made his ATP debut in 2013 and has made steady progress. After a turbulent time in 2020 with absence of tournaments due to the coronavirus pandemic, Karatsev returned to the professional tour stronger than ever, achieving one milestone after the other including a steep rise in the rankings achieving a career high ranking of 15, winning the mixed-doubles silver at the Tokyo Olympics with Elena Vesnina, stunning tennis great Djokovic in his own backyard as well as playing a vital role in Russia’s Davis Cup triumph.
In a glorious 2021, Karastev also claimed his first two singles titles (ATP 500 Dubai Open and ATP 250 Kremlin Cup). During his appearance at the Australian Open last year, he became the first player in an open era to reach Grand Slam semi-finals on his main draw debut.
Having beaten 13 Top-10 ranked players, including Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Grigor Dimitrov, Marin Cilic, Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov, the star Russian player will undoubtedly start as the strong title contender during his maiden appearance in Pune.
2) Lorenzo Musetti (Italy)
The-19-year-old rising star Lorenzo Musetti has attracted many eyeballs from the tennis world during his short span of career so far. The Italian, who made the ATP main draw debut at 18 in the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships. Soon made headlines when he handed the three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka a first-round straight sets defeat in Italian Open, a Masters 1000 level tournament, becoming the first player born in 2002 to win an ATP match, and also went onto beat the former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori in the next round.
With a sensational start to his career, the Italian became the youngest player to break into the Top-100 for 2021 and achieved a career-best ranking of 57. His first win against a Top-10 player came in the 2021 Mexican Open when he stunned World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and later reached the semi-finals, becoming the third youngest semi-finalist in the tournament history after Xavier Malisse and Rafael Nadal. Musetti also made a significant breakthrough reaching the Round of 16 at the Roland Garros last year and pushed Novak Djokovic to five sets in a tough encounter.
Expected to present a strong challenge for the title, currently ranked 60 in the world, this Next Gen promising star will look to make his mark when he takes the field in Pune during his debut at Tata Open Maharashtra.
3) Yuki Bhambri (India)
India’s Yuki Bhambri will be eager to make an impression on his comeback at Tata Open Maharashtra. During his last appearance in 2018 at South Asia’s prestigious tournament, Bhambri was one of the two Indians to reach the singles pre-quarterfinals and also made semi-finals finish to his campaign in the doubles, playing alongside Divij Sharan.
The 29-year-old recently returned to the international circuit after a two-year break due to injury and played at the Australian Open qualifiers earlier this week.
Bhambri won his first ATP Challengers singles title in 2012 and added his third in 2014. Meanwhile he also made his Davis Cup debut and broke into the Top-100 in the world rankings. Bhambri won two bronze medals for the country at the 2014 Asian Games—in singles and in doubles with Divij Sharan. He also achieved his career-best ranking of 83 in 2018.
During his younger days, he was considered as one of the most promising youngsters by the experts. It was rightly so as the dashing player had a decorated career in the junior circuit. He was the first Indian junior to win Australian Open as well as fourth in Indian history to capture a junior singles Grand Slam title. His junior career milestones also include him achieving No. 1 world ranking as well as clinching a singles silver medal for the country at 2010 Youth Olympics.
On his return to Pune, after missing out on the last two editions, Bhambri will be one to watch among the Indian players at the 4th Tata Open Maharashtra.
4) Jiri Vesely (Czech Republic)
Jiri Vesely is a popular name among Indian tennis fans. It was at Tata Open Maharashtra that the Czech Republic star ended his five-year long title drought when he was crowned champion in the last edition.
Currently ranked 79 in the world, Vesely will be making his return to Pune in his quest to defend his title at South Asia’s prestigious tournament.
Vesely, who is currently the highest ranked Czech player in singles, began his professional career with the Davis Cup in 2013. The 28-year-old Vesely had a phenomenal youth career before that as he bagged the Australian Open junior title, both singles and doubles and also attained No. 1 junior world ranking. Besides reaching the finals of the US Open and Wimbledon in singles and doubles respectively, he has also won the doubles gold at the 2010 youth Olympic Games.
In 2013, he was named as the ATP Star of Tomorrow after cracking the Top-100. Vesely won his first Grand Slam match at the 2014 French Open. His biggest win of the career came at the Monte Carlo in 2016 when he shocked the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the second round. It was the first time in three years, Djokovic had exited from a Masters tournament before the final since 2014.
5) Kamil Majchrzak (Poland)
Playing in his maiden Tata Open Maharashtra, the No. 2 Polish singles star will be looking to make the most of the opportunity after missing the tournament last time around due to a groin injury. The 2014 Youth Olympics champion will be one of the key names headlining the upcoming event in Pune. The 26-year-old, currently ranked 107 in the world, led the Polish team to the semi-finals for the first time in the history of ATP Cup earlier this year by winning all of his three matches. In 2019, he achieved his career-best ATP ranking of 83.
During his Grand Slam debut at the 2019 Australian Open, he won two sets against Kei Nishikori and was close to registering his first win over a Top-10 player before an injury forced him to retire from the match. Majchrazak, who is currently playing in Australia, will look to carry his good form to Pune.
The singles main draw of Tata Open Maharashtra 2022 will begin from February 1 while the qualifying round will be played on January 30 and 31.