The curious case of never-returning players




The curious case of never returning players

The curious case of never returning players

As the dull day comes to a drab close, dusk falls with the rhythmic sounds of tennis balls bouncing around. It is time for Chennai Open, but where is the crowd? But, for the Green Stands in the Eastern and Western ends, the seats seem to be left for souls flying around. The crowd numbers have started to dwindle right from the year Rafael Nadal stopped participating. The crowd had been treated to a worldwide superstar, but when you give them anything less, they shrug and say they don’t want it anymore. The TNTA and the SDAT are trying their best to market this tournament well but it is proving to be nothing but an experiment in futility.

Players have also started to prefer other tournaments in other parts of the world to Chennai due to several reasons. Yes, the prize money is really low and adding to that the hostile weather conditions don’t help either. And, coming to the major issue – the inefficiency of the officials, especially the line umpires. Last year, I heard from several people that the decisions on the show courts have been really pathetic and due to the lack of the review system in courts 1 and 2, wayward decisions stand as called.

Line umpires are generally the coaches and trainers at different tennis academies in the city and some are even white-collar workers. So, when that is said, one might expect a good standard of decision making, but that certainly is not the case. Horrendous is the most euphemistic adjective I can pluck out of my brain now, to describe their decisions. Not only I, a mere spectator, am enraged, more importantly the player is put under great agony because of this. This is the year’s first tournament, and if he loses out on an opportunity to kickstart well due to poor umpiring, he is totally justified.

Serving on match point Roberto Bautista Agut forced Bachinger to drill a backhand to his backhand. Bachinger hit it so sweetly that the cross court stroke was a clear winner as it clipped the line. But, the line umpire ruled it wide. And, there ended Bachinger’s run at Chennai Open. Do you think he will come back again after this? He was far from sober after the game. Throwing his wristbands like how Safin used to smash racquets and pleading with the chair umpire that it was in. I was sitting in the first row watching the action from 3 metres distance and I could see that it was in. That decision cost Bachinger’s match.

Similarly, in his first round match against Yen-Hsun Lu, he was at the receiving end of a barrage of shocking decisions. Some were overruled by the chair umpire, but how many can be caught by the naked eye?

In another match between Benoit Paire and Flavio Cipolla, match was temporarily suspended for 5 minutes because Benoit Paire swinged a ball at the lines-woman who made 3 incorrect decisions against him in a row. Yet again, she called Cipolla for a double fault and he was clearly not happy with it. Benoit Paire went on to win, but he definitely was upset the way things are.

The base needs to be altered first if the whole tournament were to go big. The line umpires’ quality needs to be upped – big time! And, the case does not rest with line umpires alone, even the ball boys are terrible. They are not ball ‘boys’, more like ball men. They hardly run, their sloth-like movement is ugly and they are highly inefficient.

The ball boys have a messed up system that you can find two ball boys at the same place, in more than one instance. They collide mid-court, they show an empty hand in between games to the server and even attend phone calls on their mobile phones in between points. I mean, what is going on here? Not even the spectator is allowed to speak over phone, and boy, we have a ball boy having a conversation.

I guess once these are rectified, TNTA can look into attracting the top 3 players and market the tournament well. Unless the foundation is not laid well, however top-notch the tower is.

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