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December 29, 2001
Indians fall in first round: Tata Open
The qualifying rounds of the Tata Open 2002 tennis tournament got under way at Nungambakkam stadium in Chennai on Saturday morning. The qualifying field was definitely the strongest ever in Chennai, and only three Indian players managed to get direct entry into the qualifying draw.
Three other Indians had to be given wildcards into the qualifying rounds, including Sunil Kumar Sipaeya, who won the Tata Futures tournament on Friday, in addition to Prakash Amritraj (USA), son of tennis legend Vijay Amritraj.
Out of the six Indians who started the day vying for one of the four spots in the singles main draw, not one remained standing at the end of the first round.
Sunil Kumar managed to win the second set in a closely-fought tie-breaker against Amir Hadad if Israel, but then crumbled in the decider, ultimately losing 4-6, 7-6(5), 1-6.
Sixth seed Vadim Kutsenko tamed Prahlad Srinath easily 6-4, 6-2; Carlos Cuadrado of Spain took care of Rohan Bopanna in similar fashion 6-4, 6-2, while Thomas Dupre of France ran through wildcard entrant Ajay Ramaswami 6-4, 6-2.
Another wild card, Vijay Kannan showed some resistance against Briton Arvind Parmar before losing in straight sets 4-6, 5-7, and Mustafa Ghouse, the last Indian hope, bowed out to eighth seed Juan Albert Viloca of Spain.
The top four seeds in the qualifiers had a smooth ride into the second round.
However, fifth seed Jamie Delgado of Great Britain played the best match of the day, before being beaten by Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 6-7(9), 7-6(6).
Former singles champion and defending doubles champion Byron Black of Zimbabwe made quick work of seventh-seeded Dick Norman of Belgium 6-4, 7-6(5) to advance to the second round of the qualifiers.
Bruguera, Voltchkov withdraw
Meanwhile, the tournament organisers said two-time French Open champion Sergei Bruguera of Spain and Vladimir Voltchkov have withdrawn from the Open due to injuries.
Bruguera is running a high fever, and is unable to travel, while Voltchkov's ankle injury rendered him unavailable.
Dennis van Scheppingen (NED) and Paradorn Srichaphan (THA) will, therefore, be the alternates who will enter the main draw of the tournament.
Mercedes-Benz Rising Stars a big hit with kids
The Mercedes-Benz Rising Stars event, which was held at the Corporation ground as part of the Tata Open 2002 activities, proved to be a big hit with the children of Chennai.
Over 2,000 attendees enjoyed playing with some of the world's top ATP players, including defending champion Michal Tabara (CZE), India's top duo Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, as well as Alex Calatrava (ESP) and Kristian Pless (DEN).
Vijay and Anand Amritraj also made an appearance, with the kids excited about playing their hometown legends.
The players knocked around on specially-constructed mini tennis courts, decompressed balls, and miniature rackets. The evening turned out to be a fun-filled one for everyone, as the kids lined up for autographs and collected gifts and prizes from Mercedes-Benz as part of the festivities.
Mail Sports Editor
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