US-born Rajiv Ram in limelight at Chennai Open

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Chennai, Jan 2 (UNI) His Indian name evokes sentiment and emotion in equal measure: his first name, Rajiv, indicates a great political dynasty, his second Ram reflects culture and is right now a disputed name by those countering opposition to a development project down south.

Rajiv Ram is indeed from the south as well as the north, if one goes by his lineage. His father is from Bangalore and his mother from Delhi. But Ram is not Indian by birth. He was born in the US and had grown up there, playing tennis.

He has come down south now for the third year in succession to compete in the ATP Tour Chennai Open and yesterday for the first time in his fledgling career, Ram attracted the limelight, winning his first match in the main draw after qualifying along with three other players.

Just as the lone Indian challenge in Prakash Amritraj was about to end on the centre court, Ram evoked interest among the media under the impression that the Indian challenge was still alive, afterall, in the singles main draw.

Ram was requested to come to the media room following his upset win over a higher ranked Russian Yuri Schukin in two tie break sets.

The media then learnt that in spite of his Indian parentage, Ram was not born in India, but in the US. ''I started playing tennis when I was four with my father as my coach. I just kept hitting the ball with him,'' the 20-year-old revealed.

He has been having a regular tennis coach after turning 16 and had also been playing in tournaments in the US since then. ''I turned a professional in January 2004,'' he said.

''It was a great feeling winning my first match against a higher ranked player. I am enjoying every bit of it,'' Ram exulted at the press conference.

''My father is a PhD in Botany and my mother is also in the same field. They work in a biotech company,'' he told the media.

Ram said he has so far been coming to India as a tennis player.

''I have read a lot about India. I am planning to come here just to travel and know more about the country in future,'' he revealed.

A 100 per cent professional tennis player without any other avocation, Ram's immediate goal in tennis is to be among the top 100 and get a direct entry into an ATP Tour event next year.

''It would be a great feeling to be among the direct entries,'' he said, signing off, as his manager standing by his side, nudged him.

UNI VV GD AB RN1846

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