Tennis, Chennai and the charm




It is that time of the year when cold breeze kisses festivity and the world wakes up from slumber to party wild. After a two month break tennis players gear up for the calendar year’s first Grand Slam at Melbourne, the Australian Open. Though not the most rewarding tournament, Aircel Chennai Open proves to be a great preparatory tournament that many players prefer. The climate in Chennai resembles that of Melbourne’s, so to acclimatise themselves to these conditions, players often fly to Chennai to have a hit.

Tennis, Chennai and the charm

Tennis, Chennai and the charm

Chennai Open, previously Gold Flake Open and Tata Open, is the only ATP Championships in India, so almost all of the Indian top seeds give their best shot here. Also, players like Marin Cilic, Janko Tipsarevic and Stanislas Wawrinka find Chennai Open to be the perfect start to the New Year.

Chennai Open has its own charm that attracts players from around the world every year. Be it the traditional reception in the form of adorning silk shawls and applying vermillion on the foreheads or the novel approach to get the crowd going by getting players to hit out the ball with a cricket bat, Chennai Open has been spot on in the arena of marketing. People like me are more or like pilgrims to the SDAT Stadium, Nungambakkam, where Chennai Open takes place. I have been going to the tournament since the time it was Tata Open, and I have seen the likes of Srichaphan and Moya battling it out amidst thunderous, ear-splitting cheers from the 6000-strong crowd.

I have seen Chennai Open play host to one of the best players to ever play tennis – Rafael Nadal. And, I also was witness to one of the greatest matches to be played in a 250 Championships. In 2008 edition of Chennai Open, Spaniards Carlos Moya and Rafa Nadal battled out for 4 hours before Moya ran out of gas and lost the match despite winning a tough first set 7-6. Nadal went on to win 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 and one can definitely say it is one of the best matches Nadal has ever played.

That said, Chennai Open has also warmly embraced the players with a bit of Chennai touch. Players have been ushered into the center courts inside a vehicle that is quite ubiquitous in this city – an auto rickshaw. Time and again players ranging from the top of the world to the Challenger series level players have taken to court. Top bills like Patrick Rafter and Yvgeny Kafelnikov graced the tournament in the early days and their names are still etched on the honours board.

This year has started off on a wonderful note as the tournament boasts a really strong draw that has the likes of World Number 6 Tomas Berdych, Olympic Gold Medallist Stanislas Wawrinka, 2-time Chennai Open winner Marin Cilic and the ever-charming Janko Tipsarevic. The local fans, I am sure, will be cheering for local boy Somdev Devvarman and qualifier Prakash Amritraj, apart from superstars Leander Paes who is partnering with Eduardo Roger-Vasselin and Mahesh Bhupathi who is partnering the in-form Daniel Nestor.

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