MUMBAI: The start of L&T Mumbai Open, a WTA $125k Series event, has been delayed by a day since the fourth ODI between India and West Indies is scheduled to happen on the same day at Cricket Club of India.
More than 25,000 fans are expected to attend the ODI at Brabourne Stadium, which is adjacent to the tennis courts at the club. Also, the corridor that connects the tennis players’ dressing room to the courts is right next to the gate for the biggest stand of the cricket stadium.
Taking players’ security into consideration, organisers decided to begin the WTA event on Tuesday instead of the customary Monday start it gets. Given that entry for the tennis tournament is free, crowd control would have been a difficult proposition to contend with.
“We have the police clearance for it,” said joint tournament director Sunder Iyer on Sunday.
“But we thought it would be better to not play on Monday. There will be a lot of people coming for cricket and the (tennis) players’ security is a priority for us. We had to clear it with WTA and they agreed with our decision.”
Mumbai Open, which debuted last year, is the biggest and only WTA event in India at the moment. China’s Saisai Zheng, ranked 47, is the top seed at the tournament that features four top-100 players. But the highlight of the main draw is former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki, who has entered as a wild card.
Though 125K series events are at the lowest rung of the women’s tour, they serve as a good platform for Indian players who otherwise are forced to travel abroad in search of ranking points.
India’s top-ranked player Ankita Raina made the main draw on her ranking merit (195). The 25-year-old had made the most of the opportunity last year as she made the quarterfinals. She will be hoping for another smart show this time around.
Meanwhile, India’s Karman Kaur Thandi (215) and Rutuja Bhosale (368) were handed wild cards. Tough starts await both the players though as Thandi is set to face top seed Zheng in the opening round, while Bhosale will go up against Raina.
Pranjala Yadlapalli also secured her place in the main draw by winning the second round of qualifiers. The 19-year-old defeated Gerogia’s Oksana Kalashnikova 6-4, 6-3 and was the only Indian to get through the qualifiers.