The jeevan force

To most, tennis Nationals are like stepping back into antiquity for a week. The tournament has no bearing on the cut-throat pursuit of ranking points on the pro circuit. And India's busy top rung of singles players won't even spare it a second glance.

But Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan who turned 24 this week and comes from the quaintly reverential tennis city of Chennai, went on to win the national title earlier this month, and terms it a fond memory that he will cherish for long. He's ranked 400 in the world currently, and is going about the gruelling business of stacking up weekly wins in Futures, one round at a time, but the youngster puts an equal store on that seemingly pointless title with its obsolete importance. "As a kid growing up in the 90s in Tamil Nadu I used to look up to all the players who returned to Chennai as national champions. I've always thought of it as a prestigious title, and all the best guys have won it at some point in time, so it was good to win it. I'll have the national champion tag always," he says, not under-playing the achievement, though it came against a field lacking in any big name, as cruelly dismissed by many. In Mumbai for the ITF Futures, Jeevan says he's hauled himself back to the present-day challenges of the travelling circuit and he was duly stretched to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 three-setter by a pugnacious Mohit Mayur before he made the quarters.

Vishnu Vardhan retired on the day citing fatigue after a long season, and others from the new, newer, newest kids on the bloc brigade like Saketh Myneni, Arjun Kadhe and Sriram Balaji suffered defeats on Wednesday, leaving Indian hopes to centre on Jeevan. He sees this as a crucial time for Indian tennis with about 10 guys stacked into the Top 500, with quiet curiosity about who will take the important lunge. A group of youngsters took on New Zealand in the last Davis Cup tie, but Jeevan hadn't made the cut there and says that he is keen to pitch himseolf into contention the next time by getting his ranking up.

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