A big junior contingent for the Australian Open


New Delhi : As the Indian tennis pros sweat out at the first Grand Slam of the year, The Australian Open, a talented bunch of juniors will quietly begin their campaign here Sunday.

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The boys challenge is led by Yuki Bhambri, the top seed in singles. Ronak Manuja, Kaza Vinayak Sharma, Sudarwa Sitaram, are the other Indian boys competing.

The girls draw has Rashmi Teltumbde and Kyra shroff holding the Indian flag, making it one of the biggest junior contingents from the country at the Australian Open.

Rashmi will play Nicha Lortpitaksinchai of Thailand in the first round while Kyra Shroff faces Czech Monika Turnova.

For Both Rashmi and Kyra, this is the first time in any Grand Slam event. And understandbly they would be feeling some nerves.

While Kyra tuned up for the event at the famous warm-up tournament Optus Nottinghill International, Rashmi chose to play in an ITF tournament here and she reached the final.

Kyra lost in the second round to Heather Watson, who had also defeated her at the Commonwealth Youth Games final in October.

The two Indian girls teamed up to enter the final at the ITF juniors doubles in Chandigarh earlier this month.

Rashmi, ranked 87 in the world, draws confidence from her good performance last year as she won an ITF event in Malaysia followed by some impressive performances on the international circuit at home.

“I am nervous since it is a Grand Slam, but I have performed consistently. I cracked the top-100 last year. So I am hopeful of putting some good fight,” said Rashmi, who is coached by Hemant Bendre.

Rashmi was lucky to get to the main draw thanks to a pull-out. The 17-year-old Mumbai-based girl, however, is realistic about her chances.

“I know it is going to be a tough draw, but if I manage to pull off a couple of rounds, I will be happy. I have played against some players who are in the draw and that puts me a bit at ease.

“I have worked hard on my fitness as well as tactical aspects like shot selection and ability to make quick decisions. I have done my bit and am prepared,” said Rashmi who made the trip to Melbourne accompanied by Manuja.

“My elder sister is having exams, so my parents could not come along with me.”

It is indeed a tall order for the youngster who is aiming to improve her ranking in order to get a direct entry in the other Grand Slams of the year.