CHENNAI: Chennai, not known for its August showers, is embracing the tennis court of Madras Cricket Club this year. Certainly not good news for 64 boys and 48 girls from nearly 20 states who want to make an impression in a tournament that has groomed a young Somdev Devvaraman, Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni, among others.
The MCC U-18 national clay court tennis championship, a week-long tournament held in the city for 20 years, had not faced this problem of rain in the past years. “One of the major problems that we face is unpredictable weather, especially when it rains in the first few rounds. We can move matches to hard court, but the purpose is to host it in clay. It’s a totally different surface and tests the potential of a player,” says Hiten Joshi, CEO of Tamil Nadu Tennis Association.
To come up with a solution, the association tries to reduce the number of qualification rounds. “We have soaking machines but the court has to dry on its own. We generally leave it open in the sun and slot matches accordingly. If it’s pouring in the morning, we conduct matches late evening and if it’s in the night, we start early the next day. “There was a time when we had five days of shower and had to complete the tournament in four days. We did it by reducing the length of matches. This year, because of the fourth day rain, we shifted a few doubles matches to the SDAT hard court.”
With improved infrastructure, MCC has four clay courts with extra floodlights, an added stand, and lawn. These floodlights comes handy when they have matches late evening. “We normally have one gallery, but with a good number of parents and coaches accompanying the players, it’s been increased. We have small stands in courts 3 and 4 for them. “Four years back, the club renovated the whole court with greenery and lawn. Only three courts had floodlights.
Now, with the fourth court having lights, we can have extra hours of play.” In a cricket-crazy city, it’s not easy to attract crowds. But thanks to the now-defunct Chennai Open, organisers were willing to take the trouble of hosting the junior event. “Chennai Open gave us a lot of motivation,” says Joshi. “People came in numbers to see (Stan) Wawrinka and (Rafael) Nadal. It’s disheartening to see that moving away but I’m glad it’s still alive in India. People have appreciated tennis from the time Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan played in Davis Cup. Somdev, Sriram Balaji have done well here. This year, we can expect something from fifth seeded local boy Dhakshineswar Suresh.”