With March’s Chinese Challenger rounds dropping off the schedule, the Bengaluru Tennis Open will be busier than usual.
The 2020 Bengaluru Tennis Open - the third edition of the ATP Challenger tournament - is set to be one of its most star-studded yet, including top names of Indian tennis like defending champion Prajnesh Gunneswaran and 2017 winner Sumit Nagal, along with four players ranking among the top-100 of the world to add to the mix.
It is also the most lucrative on the circuit, with a prize pot of $162,500 making it the richest on the ATP Challenger schedule.
After being held in the month of November in both 2017 and 2018, the Bengaluru Tennis Open didn't have an edition in 2019 as it was decided to be moved closer to Tokyo 2020.
Many of the top local names to feature on the Bengaluru Tennis Open billing will be heading south after competing in the Tata Open Maharashtra.
Defending champion and highest-ranked Indian Prajnesh Gunneswaran will head the home challenge.
The World No. 122 won the event in 2018 in dominant fashion, beating fellow countryman Saketh Myneni 6-2, 6-2, and followed it up with a sizzling run of form in 2019, climbing to a career-high ranking of 75 in April.
Also adding to the list of home heroes will be Bengaluru Tennis Open 2017 winner Sumit Nagal, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sasi Kumar Mukund.
Also adding to the local flavour will be Olympic bronze medalist and eight-time Grand Slam doubles champion Leander Paes, before he goes on to represent India at the Davis Cup tie against Croatia.
Among the many international players to feature in the draws will be four players ranked in the top-100.
Leading that line-up will be World No. 73, Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, ahead of Italy's Stefano Travaglia (82) of Italy, Japan's Yuichi Sugita (86), and James Duckworth (96) of Australia.
Perhaps even more crucially, particularly in light of the cancellation of all four Chinese Challenger rounds, it offers Indian tennis players a much-needed alternative to work on their rankings in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics.
The deadly coronavirus outbreak in China has played havoc with the schedules of Indian players, who had planned to use those matches to improve their rankings.
All four ATP Challengers that were to take place in China in March — in Qujing, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Zhangjiagang — have been cancelled.
That doesn't bode well for someone like Sasi Kumar Mukund, who in 2019, competed in five Challengers across China and Chinese Taipei between March and April.
“I don't have a schedule, where can I plan next?” Mukund said, visibly concerned during a press conference following his opening-round loss at the Tata Open Maharashtra. "The Olympics are at stake if it goes on like this!”
The reason behind the concern is that players' ATP rankings play a role in their Olympic eligibility, and with the 2020 Olympics fast approaching, time to boost one’s rankings is running out.
The Bengaluru Tennis Open will be held between February 10-16 at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association in Bengaluru.
Live coverage of the Bengaluru Tennis Open can be enjoyed via the ATP website.