Three defeats in two days could be disconcerting to anyone, but to the Indian tennis fans at the SDAT Tennis Stadium, witnessing the Chennai Open, India’s sole ATP tourney, it mattered little.
Soaking in the moment and enjoying the game, set by set and game by game, the match was more important to them, than getting sombre over their idols’ defeats. After all, it is not for nothing that Chennai is also known as the home of a sportive crowd; it was here at the Chepauk in 1999 that the Pakistan cricket team was given a standing ovation after they managed to clinch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
The match between Prakash Amritraj and Go Soeda of Japan on Wednesday was a cliffhanger of sorts. Prior to the match, an air of excitement prevailed. Prakash had beaten a much-fancied player, Guillaume Rufin, a day ago, and the expectation was that he would do an encore against Soeda as well. Chants of ‘India India’ and ‘Prakash Prakash’ from the crowd rent the air, as did ‘Come on, India’.
Every point that Prakash won was met with rousing cheer; however, the crowd was not partisan, cheering also for his opponent whenever he too managed to get the upper hand.
The decibel levels in the stands hit a crescendo when the Indian — returning after a two-year break — after losing the first set, came back in style to clinch the second, with fans waving the tricolour in frenzy.
Prakash lost the third set, which swung from one way to another in the marathon two-and-half hour game, but that did not dishearten the fans as they gave a standing ovation to Soeda, who, after the game, wielded a cricket like a tennis racquet and hit a few balls into the crowd.
The other games involving local favourites Somdev Devvarman and Mahesh Bhupathi, in the singles and doubles categories, too, ended in heartbreak for the fans, but that did not down the enthusiasm levels.