Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves. These words are attributed to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India. How true, that given the intangibility of time, it invariably needs another more grounded measurement to give it heft, like growth. A 20-year period, for instance, is as good a barometer as any to make an assessment of the situation.
The Chennai Open has been around for that long! Since the inaugural edition took place in New Delhi, this ATP 250 series event has continued to flourish despite all the problems it must have faced. This success didn’t happen overnight and all those responsible must take a bow for their work behind the scenes.
For one thing, sponsors are never easy to come by and no one knows this better than Arjuna awardee Jaidip Mukerjea who thinks it’s a great that a tournament of this stature has continued to grow instead of falling by the wayside.
“The WTA event in Kolkata where I was tournament director was discontinued after three years due to lack of funding. But the organisers here have provided a great opportunity to youngsters to make a name for themselves. The unfortunate bit is that there’s only one such event in the country,” he says.
Another well-wisher is Davis Cupper SP Misra, who feels it’s even more impressive when one realises that back in the day the US Dollar was worth `30-40 while today it’s at `63! “The quality of tennis is always good and that’s bound to happen when the crowd is so involved. During my tenure as Davis Cup skipper I remember we had won the 2010 World Group playoff tie against Brazil after being down 0-2 initially. That’s what spectator support can do,” he adds.
The event has witnessed the likes of Boris Becker, Patrick Rafter, Carlos Moya and Rafael Nadal, all of them former World No 1, grace its medium-paced hard courts. This year the fourth-ranked Stan Wawrinka leads a deep field, but more importantly, there are 17 Indians among the 32 qualifiers. “I’ve been involved with the Chennai Open since 2000 in commentating capacity. The speciality of the event is that is that it takes place in the tennis centre of India and that brings forth a wonderful reaction. In the last few years organisers have made it even better for players as top hotels and good transportation have been at their beck and call. They’ve even refurbished the stadium and it looks pretty good!” Davis Cup captain Anand Amritraj opines.
The Chennai Open has also single-handedly made sure that India has remained on the international calendar consistently despite the problem of limited dates and dipping fortunes. For Indian legend Ramesh Krishnan that’s why it’s an important milestone and he believes one should salute it instead of indulging in the practice of nitpicking.
“It’s quite an achievement and over a period of time we have seen a lot of good players come and play. One should celebrate the good points the tourney presents and not look for cons all the time.”
Also among those to voice his support is Dronacharya award winner Akhtar Ali who has words of praise for the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association because the Chennai Open is the only top-level event running in the country. “TNTA has been doing an admirable job and youngsters have really benefitted from the exposure. It’s wonderful for Indian tennis and only good things can come out of such endeavours.”