THE RAIPUR RANGERS will be making their maiden appearance in the second edition of the Champions Tennis League (CTL) and the debutants find themselves placed in Group A, along with the Punjab Marshalls and Mumbai Tennis Masters. While, the Marshalls and Masters will draw upon their previous experience of playing in CTL, the Rangers might have to play the catch-up game.
The Punjab team looks formidable on paper, as the likes of Greg Rusedski, Marcos Baghdatis and Saketh Myneni have all tasted success in the previous edition. Meanwhile, the Mumbai team will be delighted with the arrival of reigning US Open women’s champion, Flavia Pennetta and Sriram Balaji’s presence too will keep their spirits high. On the other hand, the Raipur team seems to be lacking the firepower.
Given the unique and frenetic format of the CTL, a few points or games could decide the fate of a match. And, as we have seen in the inaugural edition, it all goes down to the wire. Here, TFG analyses the probabilities and possibilities of all the three teams in Group A.
Considering that, Punjab’s Rusedski featured in the first season of the CTL, adjusting to the demands of the unique format and challenging rules won’t be a matter of concern for the Brit. For Mumbai, former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek will be making his maiden appearance and getting into the groove might take a while for the Dutch. Raipur’s, Thomas Muster too won’t find the going easy for a few days. The Austrian is the oldest player in the league and could be a victim of a weary body.
Although, Raipur have World no.25 Roberto Bautista Agut in their ranks, it would still be fair to say that Punjab’s Marcos Baghdatis holds the edge. The current World no.46 was a part of the winning team last year and understands the nuances of this format very well. Meanwhile, Mumbai have pinned their hopes on World no.71 Santiago Giraldo but the Colombian's erratic game might prove to be costly.
Mumbai will be cock-a-hoop with the inclusion of Pennetta. While, Punjab’s Elina Svitolina and Raipur’s Alize Cornet might be climbing up the rankings in women’s tennis, the Italian’s current form and higher ranking could easily over-power them. On the women’s singles draw, the Masters will breathe easy.
Baghdatis and Saketh Myneni will lead the Punjab challenge in the men’s doubles. The Indo-Cypriot pair teamed up last year and would be in a comfortable space going ahead. Both players have a decent track record in the doubles and there is little to suggest that Baghdatis/Myneni won’t bring home crucial points for the Marshalls.
Meanwhile, Mumbai’s Balaji is still learning his craft in the doubles circuit and his pairing with Giraldo doesn’t bode too well for the Masters. Raipur’s Ramkumar Ramanathan’s experience of playing in the CTL might be a huge plus. If Agut and Ramanathan can play as a cohesive unit, then the pair can do some damage in the doubles event.
The mixed doubles will be an interesting event and it appears that all the teams in this group are evenly balanced. With no real favourites, expect some riveting contest between all the six players involved. For Punjab, Baghdatis and Svitolina will take the court, while, Giraldo and Pennetta will lead Mumbai’s challenge. For the new-comers, Agut and Cornet will try to sneak a few wins.
It’s the Marshalls who look well balanced and a potent unit. Fitter players, coupled with experience could be a huge advantage. The Masters might get some important wins from Pennetta, but other areas remain a concern. For the Rangers, though, any success of progressing ahead into the final looks slim during this edition. They should be happy if they finish second, behind Punjab.