27 Jun 2013

Spotlight - Saketh Myneni - May 2013


By Nick Fishpool

Photo: Saketh MyneniSaketh Myneni (IND)

May 2013


For the month of May we take a look at the performances of India’s Saketh Myneni which saw him become an ATP Top 300 ranked player for the first time.

During the month the 25-year-old was in action in his homeland twice before ending the month with a further two tournaments in Thailand. All four tournaments took place on hard outdoor courts.

The first of Myneni’s two tournaments in India took place in the northern city of Chandigarh. Here Myneni was seeded fifth in the singles event and fourth in doubles with partner Vijayant Malik, also of India.

Myneni and Malik were teaming up for the third time although this was the first time since playing back-to-back events in Germany in June 2012. The pairing, over the three tournaments have been getting progressively better, in terms of rounds reached, having lost in the round of 16 and then the quarterfinal in Germany and at this event they lost out to the second seeded eventual champions at the semifinal stage. The final beckons next time if this pattern is to continue!

In the singles event in Chandigarh, Myneni defied his fifth seeding by reaching first the semifinal and then the final, his first since October 2012.

His path to the final saw him face only fellow Indian opposition, beginning with a 75 61 defeat of qualifier Saurabh Patil. This was followed with an almost identical win in round two where he conceded one game more when seeing off Kunal Anand 75 62.

These two victories set Myneni up with a semifinal against the second seed N.Sriram Balaji and caused an upset as he dominated to post a shock 62 60 win.

Myneni’s place in the final was secured when fourth seed Vishnu Vardhan, seeded fourth, retired from their semifinal clash at the end of the first set, which Myneni had won 62.

The final brought Myneni face-to-face with his doubles partner of the week, Vijayant Malik. The two had faced each other twice previously on the ITF Pro Circuit with each recording a win during 2012, Myneni’s victory coming in a final to give him his first title of that year.

Malik was seeded seventh and took the opening set 63 but Myneni fought back and in a repeat of 2012, Myneni claimed his first title of the year with a defeat of Malik. The final score 36 61 64.

Next was a trip from the north down to the south for a tournament in Rohtak, a tournament that reunited Myneni with Arun-Prakash Rajagopalan, a player with whom he had played alongside in three tournaments, all held consecutively in 2012, and had reached the final of each, taking the title twice.

The pair were named the top seeds whilst Myneni was the number three seed for the singles event.

This was to be his most successful week of the month and, as he had done in Chandigarh, he started with a win over a qualifier in the opening round of his singles campaign. A one-sided 60 61win was quickly followed by two further comprehensive straight sets wins of 60 63 and 63 60 as he raced through the matches to reach the semifinal.

Having already faced three fellow Indian nationals he found himself facing another in Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, seeded two, for a place in the final.

Myneni had come up against little resistance so far and this was not about to change as, for the second week running, he easily eliminated the tournament’s second seed, reaching the final with a 62 62 win.

Before the Saturday singles final, where he was to face fourth seed, and his tenth straight Indian opponent, Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan, the two were in action in the doubles final being staged on the Friday.

The final was a meeting between the top two seeded teams and opposing Myneni and Rajagopalan were last week’s champions N.Sriram Balaji and Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan.

The last time Myneni came up against this pairing was in a semifinal loss during the previous week, this time he was to come out of the match victorious. Playing in their fourth final from the four tournaments they had played together, Myneni and Rajagopalan claimed their third title with a 64 63 win.

The next day Myneni and Virali-Murugesan were back out on court for the singles final. Myneni had been sweeping aside all challengers in this event and did not let up in the final. A 61 62 win added the singles title to his doubles triumph and gave Myneni back-to-back singles titles for the second time in his career.

The previous time he had achieved this feat was when winning his last two titles back in July 2012. This was also not the first time that Myneni had been a double title winner at the same tournament having also done so once in both 2011 and 2012.

Myneni would next be in action in Thailand following a week’s break from competitive play and when he stepped out onto the court for his first round match in the capital city of Bangkok, Myneni was doing so as an ATP Top 300 ranked player for the first time!

His participation in the singles event though, as third seed, was to come to an end in the second round. Having defeated a qualifier, for the third tournament in a row this month, 63 60 in the opening round he was then surprisingly eliminated 75 64 by Karunuday Singh, a player who would, however, go on to reach the singles final.

A third tournament of the month also brought about a third change of partner for Myneni for the doubles event. Here Myneni was linking up with American player Patrick Davidson. The two last took to the court together at an American Futures event in April. Prior to this they had competed in three consecutive events in Australia in late 2012.

Their best finish was a semifinal in Esperance, Australia during the opening week of October 2012 and this was as far as they were to advance in Bangkok. A 61 76(7) semifinal loss to second seeds and eventual runners-up Takuto Niki and Arata Onozawa, both of Japan, saw Myneni fail to collect a title for the first time this month.

A highlight of this tournament for Myneni came in the doubles quarterfinal where he faced former ATP world number 14 doubles player and 1999 Roland Garros singles semifinalist Dominik Hrbaty. Hrbaty was partnered by another former high ranker in doubles in Jaymon Crabb of Australia, who peaked at number 30.

Myneni’s final tournament of the month was staged at the same venue so no extra between tournament upheaval was required and the early exits the previous week allowed for more time on the practice courts to prepare for a run at the titles this week.

He was again seeded third in the singles and unseeded in the doubles where he once more partnered Davidson.

In the doubles, Myneni and Davidson only went as far as the second round on this occasion although, as had happened the previous week, their conquerors would go on to play for the title later in the week.

Singles play, however, saw Myneni return to the straight sets winning ways displayed in India. Opening round wins of 63 62 and 64 63 took him through to the quarterfinal.

Successive wins of 61 64 against sixth seeded Yuichi Ito of Japan in the quarterfinal and 17-year-old Australian Jacob Gills in the semifinal earned Myneni a shot at ending the month with another title, which, if won, would be his first ITF Pro Circuit singles title won outside of India!

His opponent in the title match was his third Australian opponent of the week, Andrew Harris, who had come through the qualifying event and who had knocked-out the top seed in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

Myneni was playing in his ninth ITF Pro Circuit singles final having made his first final appearance in November 2011 whilst for Harris, this was new territory. The Australian had not previously advanced any further than the quarterfinals in singles competition at a professional tournament but his inexperience certainly did not show as the opening set went to a tiebreaker.

The tiebreak ended 7-4 in favour of Myneni and from here he controlled the remainder of the match, conceding just the one game in the second set to win his first singles title on foreign soil with a 76(4) 61 victory.

A very interesting month then for Saketh Myneni, in which he either won the title or lost to the eventual champion or runner-up in both singles and doubles.

He also achieved a new milestone in his career when reaching the ATP Top 300. His win-loss record in ITF Pro Circuit singles finals now stands at 7-2 and 9-3 in doubles. Both impressive statistics.