Sania Mirza was the headline grabber once again as the Indian won the season-ending WTA Tour Finals even as Yuki Bhambri made another impressive jump in the ATP rankings. All this and more in our weekly recap of Indian tennis.
Sania Mirza Ends Season With a Bang
Sania Mirza could not have ended the season in a more emphatic manner as the Indian turned in one of the best performances of her season in the title match at the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore where she and Martina Hingis defeated the all-Spanish pairing of Carla Suarez Navarro/ Garbine Muguruza 6-0, 6-3. Hingis summed up her partner’s performance best as she said, “It’s incredible. I feel like it was a perfect day. The energy was a bit better in practice and Sania just played out of her mind – she was everywhere today – on her side, behind me – it’s about choosing the right partner!” The top-ranked duo remained unbeaten in four matches in the week and extended their winning streak to 22 matches, claiming their 10th title of the season and turning in one of the more dominant seasons by any team in recent years.
Rohan Bopanna Suffers Early Losses in bid for London berth
On the men’s doubles tour, Rohan Bopanna suffered back-to-back opening round losses in Vienna and Basel respectively with partner Florin Mergea. This was Mergea’s first events after an injury lay-off since the US Open and the duo clearly showed some rust as they went down to Julian Knowle and Daniel Nestor in Vienna and to Alexander Peya/ Bruno Soares in Basel. With the duo missing to pick up points in these two weeks, they remain in the No. 8 position in the race to the ATP World Tour Finals in London, just 125 points ahead of ninth placed Peya/ Soares with this week’s Paris Masters being the key to qualification for the final spot in London.
Meanwhile, Leander Paes/Lukasz Kubot went down to Chris Guccione and Andre Sa in the quarter-finals of the Valencia event. The 42-year-old Paes has a meagre 27-25 record this season and will need to regain his confidence ahead of the Rio Games next season.
Yuki Bhambri Wins Pune ATP Challenger
Yuki Bhambri picked up his second ATP Challenger title of the season (and the fifth of his career) with a 6-2, 7-6 win over Russian second seed Evgeny Donskoy. in Pune With the win, the 23 year old climbs to a new career-best ranking of N0. 89 in the world – climbing from No. 315 at the beginning of the season. The run included a win over James Ward, who won the title in Bangalore the previous week. It also turned out to be a good week for the 29-year-old N. Vijay Sundar Prashanth, who reached the quarter-finals with a win over the struggling Somdev Devvarman before bowing out to Donskoy in two tough tie-breaks. 17-year-old Aryan Goveas made an impressive ATP Challenger debut with the help of a wild card and stretched Germain Gigounon to three sets.
Maximilian Neuchrist/ Divij Sharan reached the doubles final in Pune, where they were beaten by Adrian Menendez-Maceiras/ Gerlad Granollers 6-1, 3-6, 6-10. Bangalore champs Saketh Myneni/ Sanam Singh were knocked out in the semi-finals as were top seeds Purav Raja/ Alexander Kudryavtsev. At the Traralgon Challenger, Jeevan Neunchezhiyan retired in the first round after losing the first set 0-6 to wild card Blake Mott and also went down in the first round of the doubles event with Matt Seeberger.
At the Bangalore Challenger the week earlier, Saketh Myneni held the flag for the Indians as he reached the semi-finals. The third seeded Indian went down to top seeded Adrian Menendez-Maceiras in the last four in straight sets after picking up three wins in the tournament. The only other Indian to reach the last eight was Sanam Singh, who upset the No. 8 seed Germain Gigounon in the first round before bowing out to eventual winner James Ward.
Myneni and Singh did combine to win the doubles title, beating John Paul Fruttero/ N. Vijay Sundar Prashanth 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 in the final.
Indian teenager Sasi Kumar Mukund chose to play abroad on the ITF circuit rather than competing at home at the ATP Challenger events. The 18-year-old, seeded No. 3, reached the semi-finals of the ITF event in Egypt where he lost to second seeded Richard Gabb. Meanwhile, wild card Vivek Gautam was beaten in the first round while 20-year-old qualifier Haadin Bava reached the second round in Turkey where he went down to fifth seeded Mate Delic. The following week in Egypt, Mukund was knocked out in the second round in Egypt while Bava qualified once again but was beaten in the first round this time.
Prerna Bhambri & Rishika Sunkara Win ITF Titles
23-year-old Prerna Bhambri won her first ITF title in three years as she upset the top seeded Rishika Sunkara in the final of the ITF Lucknow event 6-4, 6-1, helping her move to a career-high ranking of N0. 490 in the world. Dhruthi Tatachar Venugopal and Prarthana Thombare had a good week as well, making the semi-finals while Sharrmadaa Baluu, Snehadevi Reddy and Riya Bhatia all reached the quarter-finals. Bhambri and Thombare combined to win the doubles title, beating top seeds Balu and Nidhi Chilumula 6-3, 4-6, 10-7. This was Bhambri’s second ITF doubles title of the season but the seventh for Thombare, who has racked up 48 wins in doubles this season and is now ranked inside the Top 300.
Thombare repeated as champion in the doubles draw the following week in Raipur – this time with Sharmadaa Baluu as the top seeds beat the third seeds Bhambri/ Sunkara 6-3, 6-7, 10-8 in the final. In the singles, it was 22-year-old Rishika Sunkara’s turn to win her first title in three years as she beat third seed Natasha Palha 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in the final. This was Sunkara’s second ITF singles title. Eetee Mehata reached the semi-finals as did Thombare while Lucknow winner Bhambri, Baluu and Sri Vaishnavi Peddi Reddy all made the quarter-finals.
Elsewhere on the ITF circuit, Karman Kaur Thandi got in as a lucky loser in back-to-back events in Canada, going down to Fanni Stollar in three sets and then winning a round the following week before losing to World No. 70 Tatjana Maria 4-6, 3-6. Kyra Shroff was beaten in the first round of the ITF $10K event in Tunisia but reached the semi-finals the following week losing to Yana Sizikova .
Yuki Bhambri Reaches Another Career High Ranking as Sania Ends Season as No. 1
Bhambri’s exploits on the Challenger circuit see him climb sixteen spots to No. 89 this week in the latest rankings, followed by Saketh Myneni at No. 168 and Somdev Devvarman, moving up one spot to No. 180. Lower down the order, Vijay Sundar Prashanth moves up 32 spots to No. 344 and Sumit Nagal climbs 30 spots to No. 456. In doubles, Bopanna is holding on at No. 14 while Paes slips three spots to No. 39 and Purav Raja climbs 5 spots to No. 94.
Sania Mirza ends the season as World No. 1, followed by Thomabre who climbs 2 spots to No. 290 and Ankita Raina, who drops 4 spots to No. 313. Raina drops 2 spots to No. 250 in singles, while champions Bhambri and Sunkara make impressive jumps – Prerna Bhambri climbs 70 spots to No. 490 while Sunkara climbs 40 spots to No. 533.