New Delhi: Being in the august company of names such as Venus Williams and Pat Cash, among others, during the Champions Tennis League will be a great opportunity for Indian youngsters to learn and take their game to the next level, says the country's top singles player Somdev Devvarman.
Somdev will compete for Punjab Marshalls in the league beginning Monday. "For the junior Indian players to be in the same team as legends and high level tour players will be a huge learning experience. I think it's a great opportunity to observe these players at close quarters and gain from their knowledge and experience," Somdev told PTI.
The star Davis Cupper said leagues such as CTL and Mahesh Bhupathi's IPTL will only do good to Indian and Asian tennis. "It's a great way to promote tennis in Asia and across India. Watching such top level tennis up-close should hopefully motivate and inspire more youngsters to take up the sport," he said.
India's rising star Ramkumar Ramanathan, who will play in the Bangalore franchisee that also features seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Venus, endorsed Somdev's view. "It's good for players like us to mingle with the best In the business to gain experience and to play with them. These leagues will help us," the 20-year-old Ramkumar, who has won five ITF Futures title this season and is highest ranked Indian after Somdev, said.
"I think crowd is going to enjoy this format as this is exactly like T20 cricket. It has speed and things can change pretty quick so it's going to be really exciting and thrilling for everyone. For all the Indian players, I think it's good for us to play with the top players and legends and to learn from them," he added.
Apart from the top Indian players, 12 juniors including girls, are part of the league. They will not play but will get exposure. Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who features in the Hyderabad team that boasts of Cyprus star Marcos Baghdatis and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, says tennis as a team event has always been "more exciting" for him.
"Having played college tennis for university of Washington I feel very excited to compete in a team format again. CTL brings exposure to the juniors and the senior players in India. Of course the fans are the ultimate winners of this event," the left-handed said.
Somdev will take on world number 16 Kevin Anderson, who is 6"8 inch tall and has beaten the Indian twice in previous two meetings. "I look forward to it. I enjoy playing as part of a team and I hope to put some points on the board for us. I've known Kevin since my college days. He's a good friend and a very good tennis player. We've had some good matches in the past and I look forward to playing him again," Somdev said.
Both Somdev and Ramkumar backed their respective teams for a strong showing. "Every match is going to be close and it depends only on how well we play everyday. But I'm sure we can play well having Feliciano Lopez, Venus and Thomas Enqvist," he said.
"By God's grace we hope to pull it off and win for Mittu Chandilya's Bangalore Raptors."
Somdev, who will play all the singles in the absence of David Ferrer, said, "We are a strong team and will be a formidable force to reckon with."