Though the date December 30 is on everybody’s calendars because India is playing Pakistan at the MA Chidambaram cricket stadium, it is hard to forget that this year’s Chennai Open is here. Starting on New Year’s Eve, the 17th edition of India’s only ATP tournament will kick off in namma Chennai, heralding the one time of year when the bylanes around the SDAT Tennis stadium in Nungambakkam, come alive.
The bad news for tennis fans (and cricket and new year party fans as well) is that there could well be rain over the weekend and a little beyond.
As it stands, the first few days of the premier tennis tournament play out to a empty stadium and the massive crowds only come In when the quarter-finals begin and the international stars like Janko Tipsarevic, Stanislas Wawrinka and India’s own Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi, come out to play. If it does rain, then play will be rescheduled to late in the night — though the players can sweat it out on hard courts, viewers may not be too kicked over sitting in wet seats. Last year, the organizers — IMG Reliance and sponsors Aircel et al - were relieved because none of the matches needed to be rescheduled due to bad weather.
However, it goes without saying that the weathermen are usually off the mark and this is one of those times when even they might be glad to be proven wrong.
Especially when the tournament comes with a prize money pot of $450,000 and several crores have been spent by the state to modernize the stadium and make arrangements.
So what’s new at the Chennai Open this year?
For starters, the tournament has gone the IPL route and procured a dedicated Youtube channel, on which all matches will be uploaded and broadcast. The other major facelift for the stadium will the new LED scoreboards along the centre court which will display the scores in real-time.
And though it doesn’t look like they’re slowing down in the least, tennis fans will be counting this as one of the last few times that the Indian Express (Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes) play on Indian soil, even if it is with different partners.
With fashion shows, international tennis players swishing across the city for matches and promotional events, lots of flood-lit tennis action and great weather - it looks like this year’s Chennai Open is as good as it can get.
(The Chennai Open will be held between December 31 and January 6 at the SDAT Tennis stadium. Tickets are available online and at the venue)