Sixteen-year old Karan Rastogi stole the limelight from bigger stars when he entered the main draw in the $25,000 Servo ATP Challenger tennis tournament in Delhi on Sunday.
In a tournament with a cut-off as high as 266 and where the more established players like Rohan Bopanna and Harsh Mankad needed a wild card to make an entry, Rastogi played remarkable tennis to come through the three qualifying rounds at the DLTA Courts.
Rastogi, having defeated Jamie Delgado of Great Britain in the first round, went on to beat another seasoned Brit in David Sherwood in the second round on Saturday. In the third round today, he bounced back from a one-set deficit to wipe out Australian Luke Bourgeois 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Another Indian to make it to the main draw was Vishal Uppal who won 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) against Nathan Healey of Australia in the third round, and 6-3, 6-1 against compatriot Vijayendra Laad in the second.
Somdev Dev Verman, Rastogi's doubles partner and fellow traveller in the junior circuit, was unlucky as he went out in the third round, losing 6-2, 1-6, 1-6 to Jonathan Erlich of Israel. Tushar Liberhan was ousted 6-2, 6-1 by Briton Jonathan Marray.
"It is good to see Rastogi making it to the main draw. It is a highly competitive field, and the players in the running are all high-ranked," said Bopanna.
Bopanna must know, since for all his exploits in the Davis Cup and having reached the semi-final and quarter-final in two $10,000 tournaments in Greece recently, the highest ranked Indian was ousted in the second round of last week's Challenger in Bangalore.
However, there must be an added incentive for Bopanna to better that record this week with Davis Cup teammate Harsh Mankad (457) reaching the Bangalore semi-final.
Mankad lost to eventual champion Gregory Carraz of France 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (8/6) in an absorbing two-hour encounter.
Vijay Kannan, who came through the qualifiers before losing in the second round last week has earned a wild card here. Kannan takes on the 169th ranked and sixth seed Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei in the main draw first round tomorrow.
Prakash Amritraj, son of former India ace Vijay Amritraj, is the fourth wild card. Amritraj lost in the first round at Bangalore.
Rastogi plays Arvind Parmar of Great Britain, ranked 186, in the evening set of matches tomorrow. All other singles matches featuring Indian players are slated for Tuesday.
Uppal is pitted against top seed John Van Lottum (105) of The Netherlands while Bopanna is drawn to play Thailand's Dana Udomchoke (217).
Amritraj and Mankad are in the bottom half. The former faces Noam Behr of Israel and the latter takes on Russian Dmitry Vlasov (259).
Seedings: 1. John Van Lottum (104- Ned); 2. Gregory Carra (151- Fra); 3. Jean-Francois Bachelot (155 - Fra); 4. Noam Okun (157 - Isr); 5. Ivo Heuberger (161 - Sui); 6. Yen-Hsun Lu (166 -Tpe); 7. Bjorn Rehnquist (181 - Swe); 8. Tuomos Ketola (182).