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NEW DELHI: As a junior he was much better known than Somdev Devvarman, who incidentally was familiar as his doubles partner. Karan Rastogi could not build on the momentum of being No. 4 junior in the world in 2004, but has come back strongly into his best form, in the run-up to the Asian Games.
After going through a tough time when he had to undergo a back surgery and the painful procedure of rehabilitation that cost him 16 months, Karan Rastogi has reached very close to his career-best ranking, following a title from two finals in the ITF Futures circuit in Nigeria.
Rastogi's best singles ranking was 327 in June 2006, and he has clawed his way back to No. 329 this week, in about a year of toil. That is some achievement in the intensely competitive tennis world.
“I think I am probably playing some of my best tennis. It was hot and humid in Nigeria, and I'm glad to have done so well. I hope to keep it going,'' said Rastogi, when contacted in New York.
Having booked his tickets so as to be in the US for a few Challenger tournaments apart from a training stint at the Nick Bollettieri Centre after Nigeria, Rastogi stuck to his plans when he was selected for the Asian Games subsequently, and decided to fly to Guangzhou from the US, though it meant a few anxious days.
“My visa application for China was rejected last week and we had to get more relevant papers from the AITA and the IOA to eventually get the visa,'' said Rastogi on the eve of his departure to Guangzhou.
With the original list of Indian tennis team having names of Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri, there was no mention of players like Karan Rastogi and Sanam Singh. The latter also had to make a second application to get his visa from the US.
The doubles stars may be out to compete in the World Tour Finals in London, but Rastogi felt that with his friend Devvarman as the spearhead, India still had a decent team.
“Somdev is our No.1 player, and it is great that we have him in the team. It is a good opportunity for us and I'm ready to give my best. I don't know in what events I will be fielded, but am ready to play any number of matches and events, singles, doubles, mixed doubles,'' said Rastogi, who had competed in the last Asian Games in Doha.
Rastogi had led 6-2, 5-3 against second-seeded Wang Yeu-Tzuoo of Chinese Taipei in the individual singles then, but had lost his way, going down 6-2, 5-7, 5-7.
Hunger to compete
Since then, he has gone through a lot in his tennis career, and Rastogi is happy to have rekindled the hunger to compete hard and is thrilled just to be playing tennis.
Having played in a string of tournaments in Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Britain, Thailand and Australia, apart from Nigeria in recent months, with varying degree of success, Rastogi is ready for the challenge ahead.
In fact, he beat the reigning Asian Games champion Danai Udomchoke in his backyard in August, though he lost to him the following week.
Like Rastogi, Devvarman, Sanam Singh, Tara Iyer and Nirupama Sanjeev will also be flying to Guangzhou from the US.
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