Sunday, January 11, 2009

Love all!

Chennai has had a reasonably strong presence on the sports map of India. As with many other areas of human endeavor, sports in Chennai is also fairly eclectic; cricket does rule the roost, but there have been stars in motor racing, squash, carrom and table tennis, besides. While many of Chennai's star sportspersons have been relatively unknown (mainly because their disciplines haven't been able to compete with cricket), the city's tennis legacy is truly legendary. From Ramanathan Krishnan who was the first Indian to get to the Wimbledon semi-finals, his son Ramesh, Vijay Amritraj who was the 'A' in the 1970s ABC of tennis ('B' and 'C' being Borg and Connors), to Mahesh Bhupathi, tennis and Chennai has been a winning combination for decades.

With that kind of a heritage, it was natural that the first ever ATP tour event in India was hosted by Chennai (or was it still Madras, then?) in 1996. With ITC as the title sponsor, it was known as the Gold Flake Open for the first 6 years; in 2002, the Tata Group took over the title sponsorship and the event was known as the Tata Open until 2005, when a consortium of title sponsors with the Government of Tamil Nadu supporting them took over the event sponsorship for 5 years. Since then, it has been called the Chennai Open; it is part of the ATP World Tour 250 Series, so called because the champion gets 250 rankings points. It is a tournament that Rafael Nadal hasn't been able to win - he came in second last year, the only time he played - and one that has also humbled players like Boris Becker (in 1997) and Yevgeny Kafelnikov (in 2000). But it has also been a happy hunting ground for top 10 players like Patrick Rafter (in 1998) and Carlos Moya (the only one to successfully defend his Chennai Open title, in 2005).

Moya was defeated in the quarter-finals this year, beaten 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 by Somdev Devvarman. The latter went on to become the first Indian to reach the final of the Chennai Open. He didn't win it, though, losing 4-6, 6-7(3) to Marin Cilic a short while ago. Hopefully, Somdev's run this year will inspire a new sponsor (or set of sponsors) to make sure the only ATP tournament in India continues to stay in Chennai for a while longer!


LVISS said...

Somdev will be a better player than his predecessors.

Shantaram said...

@ Ravindran: He does promise to be, doesn't he? Here's to his greatness!!