Pune, Jan 18 (IANS): India's Rohan Bopanna and Ramkumar Ramanathan have received a direct entry into the doubles main draw at the fourth edition of Tata Open Maharashtra, scheduled at the Balewadi Stadium here from January 31 to February 6.
The Indian pair, who won the Adelaide International ATP-250 event earlier this month by stunning the top seeds, have earned a spot in the main draw with a combined ranking of 156. The direct acceptance list consists of 14 pairs with a cut off being 250.
In 2019, the Asian Games champion star doubles player Bopanna lifted the title of this tournament with Divij Sharan while Ramkumar had a semi-final finish in the last edition with Purav Raja. Now Playing together, Bopanna and Ramkumar will look to carry forward their brilliant start to the year when they return to Pune.
The 2020 Australian Open finalists Max Purcell and Luke Saville have also been included in the doubles main draw. The 23-year-old Australian Purcell has paired up with compatriot Matthew Ebden, who will be returning to Pune after being featured in the last edition with Indian great Leander Paes. Saville will play alongside John-Patrick Smith.
"It's always a great feeling to see Indians getting a direct entry at the Tata Open Maharashtra as our aim is to give Indian players that much-needed platform. This tournament has always witnessed Indians performing well in doubles and I hope it continues this year too. But not to forget, they will be up against a strong challenge for the title as we have got a strong field this year too," said Tournament Director Prashant Sutar.
Among the players, who have secured direct entries in both singles as well as doubles main draws are: teenage sensation Lorenzo Musetti, 2018 US Open semi-finallist Radu Albot, Ricardas Berankis and Stefano Travaglia.
South Asia's only ATP Tour tournament is returning after a two-year break, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, considering the current situation and Omicron scare, the tournament will be held in a bubble without spectators.
"With a less than two weeks to go, we are trying hard to get everything done on time. From obtaining the visas of the players as well as multiple clearances that are required from the State Government as well as the Central Government as part of staging a tournament of this stature during these tough pandemic times," said Sanjay Khandare, Treasurer of Tata Open Maharashtra, who has been looking into all government permissions.
"We wanted fans to support their favourite stars from the stands but unfortunately the current scenario doesn't allow it. Safety of players as well as other stakeholders involved is of prime importance to us and we have to follow strict bubble protocols. We will also be conducting covid tests as per the rules," said Pravin Darade, Organising Secretary of Tata Open Maharashtra as they are getting all these herculean tasks completed in a short time.
The former World No. 49 Illya Marchenko will be among the 11 direct acceptance entries into the singles qualifiers as they will fight for four main draw spots. The Ukrainian star Marchenko had beaten two-time Olympics champion and the former World No. 1 Andy Murray last year to clinch the ATP Challenger Tour title in Biella, Italy.
With cut-off at 173, Aleksander Vukic, who registered his career's first Grand Slam main draw win at Australian Open on Monday, and Christopher O'Connell are among the other players to feature in the singles qualifying rounds, which will be played on January 30 and 31.