CHENNAI: Arjun Kadhe spent an additional 75% on travel-related expenses over the last two years because of a dearth of tennis matches in India. Sidharth Rawat hasn’t played in a Challenger level event since March 2020 because of visa-related issues thanks to the pandemic. In fact, he gave his UPSC exams in October as he decided to keep his options open.
These were just two of the many stories that a majority of India’s tennis players endured — still continue to endure, really — amid the pandemic. Some of that is set to change after Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) confirmed that Bengaluru will host two back-to-back Challenger 80 events (singles winner will get 80 ranking points) from the second week of February. “Yes, that is correct,” Sunil Yajaman, joint secretary, KSLTA, confirmed.
With the Pune Open, an ATP 250 meet, also returning to the calendar in 2022, this is a much-needed boost to the players. One only had to listen to both Kadhe and Rawat who were both intimate with the developments.“It’s awesome to know that there will be Challengers as well as a 250 early next year,” Kadhe said. “The last 20 months or so has been tough. I have played the last 25-30 weeks without a break. The expenses have doubled as there are no home tournaments. “This means that we can play in India for a few weeks without booking a flight ticket or think about visa and so on. We can get a few wild cards... not just for me, this is good news for all Indian players.”
With the Pune Open slated to begin from January 31, players ranked outside the top 200 can stay in India for three consecutive weeks. A Challenger here is more cost effective for Indians. With reduced competition, it also allows them to pick up more points. This is why Rawat ‘can’t wait’. “I have had some problems with my visa so I haven’t been able to go to Europe,” he said. “This will allow me to play in India for a few weeks at least.” To make it count, though, they have to start picking up the points.