No matter how integral they are, it’s not just the players, the venue, the spectators or the action that unfolds, that make sport a grand spectacle, but the multitude of emotions that it throws up. What if players were robotic in temperament or the spectators abiding to decorum? Sport itself would have stooped to a mundane existence.
It is this emotional connect that impels both players and the spectators. That probably would justify why certain players keep coming back to a specific venue, when they have seemingly better option, while others don’t or why certain players harmonise their best on a given venue.
Maybe, a certain surface might better suit the player’s technique, but it is not that aspect alone which makes a player feel special on a particular venue. Some confide of feeling an exalted mental clarity and physical alertness, often complementary, that they vibe as soon as they walk into the stadium.
Such a ‘special feeling’ kept two-time Chennai Open champion Carlos Moya, whose liaison with Chennai lasted 12 years, come calling to Chennai to celebrate the New Year. So was it for Paradorn Srichaphan and so is it for Xavier Malisse, Janko Tipsarevic and Marin Cilic. “It has been a great tournament to play in. I feel good being in Chennai and so there is no reason to change. I like the atmosphere here and hence enjoy playing here,” explained Cilic.
Such players automatically forge their way to a player’s emotional-consciousness — familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed contempt. On the contrary, the spectator visualises an emotional aura on certain players, who may not necessarily qualify as the immortals of the game elsewhere. Moya, for example. “The place has always lifted me, rejuvenated my passion for the game,” admitted Moya.
So they put aside their chores and queue up in front of the SDAT Stadium in Nungambakkam, which as the tournament unfolds witness traffic of rare chaos. And even after they had grabbed access to the stadium, they line up in front of the players’ entry gate, with plaintive cries and mangled placards, in a vain bid to glimpse their object of worship. They swarm the press-area entrance for autographs. The scenes at the stadium had to be seen to be believed.
Chroniclers often refer to Boris Becker’s first visit to the city as the high point of emotional outpour. A not-so distant second could be the windy night when then world number two Rafael Nadal wrestled past crowd-favourite Carlos Moya in a gripping three-setter, the longest in ATP circuit. When Moya eventually caved in, a cloak of dismay descended over the stadium before they broke into an ear-splitting ovation.
There is neither Nadal nor Moya this time round. But in the course of the week, there could be more drama and emotions waiting to wrap the stands