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ATP Pune Challenger Draw Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Radu Albot leads the Pune field, with British Davis Cup winner, James Ward among those vying for the title

Leye Aduloju in Challengers 18 Nov 2018
  • Radu Albot leads the Pune field in Pune as the ATP Challenger Tour reaches its final week
  • ATP Pune Challenger is live from 19-24 November 
James Ward. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images for LTA)

Former world No. 81, Radu Albot leads the field at the 50K KPIT – MALTA Challenger in Pune, as the 2018 ATP Challenger Tour reaches its final week.

The Pune Challenger is the second of back-to-back Challenger tournaments held in India, with the other being the 150K Bengaluru Open, staged last week in Bangalore. Home favourite, Prajnesh Gunneswaran won the Bangalore title, and is unsurprisingly in the Pune field, along with another local hope Ramkumar Ramanathan, while former top 100 player, Andrej Martin, Swedish youngster, Elias Ymer, and the British duo of James Ward and Jay Clarke are among those looking to take away the title.

The Pune Challenger is into its fifth year, with Japan’s Yuichi Sugita winning the first edition on 2014, while India’s Yuki Bhambri, who won the title last year, is the only two-time champion of the tournament. 

Who will be the last-man standing at the end of the week? We preview the Pune draw.

First Quarter

Projected Quarter Final: Radu Albot (1) vs Jay Clarke (6)
Former world No. 81, Albot is seeking his second Challenger title of the season, and his eighth overall, as he looks to finish a decent campaign on a high. Albot claimed his only Challenger title of the year so far in Liuzhou at the end of October, but he’s suffered back-to-back opening round losses since then, falling to Ze Zhang in Shenzhen, where he was defending champion, and Youssef Hossam in Bangalore last week. 

Radu Albot. (Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images)
The Moldovan has spent a significant part of his season on the ATP World Tour, where he limped to an ordinary 12-23 record, but he did record some fine moments, reaching the semi-finals in Metz (lost to Gilles Simon), the quarter finals in New York (lost to Kei Nishikori). Albot matched his best Grand Slam performance, reaching the third round at Wimbledon, where he fell to John Isner in straight sets, while he also got to the second round at Roland Garros. The Moldovan also teamed up with Malek Jaziri to reach the semi-finals of the US Open. 

Albot is visiting Pune for the second time this year, having lost to Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round of the Tata Open Maharashtra in the opening week of the year. The world No. 101 starts against India’s Sumit Nagal, a quarter-finalist in Bangalore last week, before a possible second round meeting with Australia’s Maverick Barnes or a qualifier/lucky loser.

20-year-old Brit, Jay Clarke headlines the other half of this quarter- the world No. 174, who won the Birmingham Challenger in June, will be looking to end a seven-match losing streak when he plays Turkey’s Cem Ilkel in the first round. If he gets through that, he will play one of home players, Sasi Kumar Mukund or Bangalore finalist, Saketh Myneni in the second round, before a potential quarter final with Albot.

Predicted Semi-Finalist: Saketh Myneni

Second Quarter

Projected Quarter Final: Prajnesh Gunneswaran (4) vs Marc Polmans (5)
Gunneswaran heads into Pune in fine form, having claimed his second Challenger title in Bangalore last week. The 29-year-old won his first in Anning- also a 150K tournament- in April. 

Prajnesh Gunneswaran. (Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
Gunneswaran has now made at least the semi-finals in three of his last four tournaments, having reached the final of the Ningbo Challenger, and the last four in Liuzhou. By virtue of his Bangalore success, the left-hander is projected to rise to a new career-high ranking of around 110 when the rankings are updated on Monday. 

Gunneswaran takes on Taipei’s Tsung-Hua Yang in the first round, while American, Collin Altamirano or a qualifier/lucky loser will be his second opponent- if he gets through. The Indian is drawn to meet Australia’s Marc Polmans in the quarter finals, but Polmans must first navigate a difficult opener against former world No. 72, Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the first round, who is coming off consecutive semi-finals in Shenzhen and Bangalore.

Predicted Semi-Finalist: Prajnesh Gunneswaran

Third Quarter

Projected Quarter Final: Elias Ymer (3) vs James Ward (8)
After dropping out of the top 1000 last season, and starting off this season outside the top 800, former British No. 2, James Ward has done a good job of rebuilding his ranking this year, entering this week’s Pune Challenger as the 199th-ranked player in the world.

Ward is a former world number 89, and a member of the British team that won the Davis Cup in 2015, but he has had serious injury problems in recent seasons, missing eight months between September 2016 and June 2017 due to a knee injury, and playing just six tournaments on his return to the sport in 2017 before shutting down again in August.

Elias Ymer. (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Ward did not start again until February this year, and after an understandably slow start, he has picked up the pace, making the final in the Loughborough and Jinan Challengers, and semi-finals in Chengdu and Cassis. His recent form has however not been good, as he has won just three of his last 10 matches, including qualifiers. Ward begins his tournament against Australia’s Max Purcell, and could face Dutchman, Scott Griekspoor in the second round. Swedish youngster, Elias Ymer, the highest-ranked player in the quarter, is a possible quarter final opponent.  The 22-year-old Swede, who reached the second round at Roland Garros this year, is in good form, having claimed his fifth Challenger title, and second of the season in Mouilleron-Le-Captif a couple of weeks ago.

Predicted Semi-Finalist: Elias Ymer

Fourth Quarter

Projected Quarter Final: Ramkumar Ramanathan (2) vs Andrej Martin (7)
Second seed, and last year’s beaten finalist, Ramkumar Ramanathan headlines the bottom half of the Pune draw, as he looks to become just the second Indian after Yuki Bhambri to win the Pune Challenger. The highlight of Ramanathan’s year was his runner-up finish at the ATP 250 meet in Newport, where he lost to Steve Johnson, while he also made the final at the Taipei Challenger, and quarter finals in Marbella, Nanchang and Nottingham. 

It’s been a decent back-up to the gains he made last year, when he reached Challenger finals in Tallahassee, Winnetka and Pune, and significantly claimed his first ATP World Tour wins in Antalya, stunning Dominic Thiem in his first ever match against a top-ten player in a quarter final run. 

Ramkumar Ramanathan  (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The former world number 111 also qualified for a Masters 1000 main draw for the first time in his career in Cincinnati, beating Christopher Eubanks in the first round before falling to Jared Donaldson. He’s managed a 7-7 record at tour-level this year, and is goes into Pune as one of the favourites to go all the way. He takes on compatriot, Arjun Kadhe in the first round, and could play another one of his countrymen, Aryan Goveas in the second round. Former top 100 player, Andrej Martin is a potential quarter final opponent. Martin reached the semis at the ATP 250 meet in Quito in February, and won the Liberec Challenger in August, but he has won just two main draw matches since then, and has lost his last seven matches.

Predicted Semi-Finalist: Ramkumar Ramanathan

Saketh Myneni vs Prajnesh Gunneswaran
Elias Ymer vs Ramkumar Ramanathan

Prajnesh Gunneswaran vs Ramkumar Ramanathan

Prajnesh Gunneswaran

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ATP Pune Challenger Draw Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Radu Albot leads the Pune field, with British Davis Cup winner, James Ward among those vying for the title

Radu Albot leads the Pune field, with British Davis Cup winner, James Ward among those vying for the title. Read the draw preview, predictions and stream the matches live online.

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