INTERVIEW | 'Want Chennai to host ATP and WTA meets back-to-back': Vijay Amritraj

If his wishes are true, Chennai will be in line to host two tour-level events (one each in the ATP and the WTA) as well as a Challenger-level tournament.
Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj (Photo | EPS)
Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj (Photo | EPS)

Going forward, the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) president, Vijay Amritraj, wants Chennai to have a 'tennis carnival' in the first quarter of all years. If his wishes are true, Chennai will be in line to host two tour-level events (one each in the ATP and the WTA) as well as a Challenger-level tournament. He also mentioned that the ongoing Chennai Open is pretty close to 'breaking even'. Excerpts from an interview with a few journalists.

TNTA president Vijay
Amritraj | R satish kumar

On his thoughts on the tournament

The concern I have is the window. Every time you start talking about the calendar, you come back to a January-February window. This (event) is kind of like a one-off thing from the calendar standpoint. From here, only if you are really only going to Seoul and Tokyo, you are coming (here). And it's right after the US Open. So, it's a really tricky time. When you go back and look at the calendar, February would be the perfect date for something like this. WTA has major events in Dubai and Doha. That would work nicely.

On his goals for this event

I want to eventually have one ATP and WTA event. That's the goal. However we do it, what part of the year we do it... one WTA and one ATP event. We don't have the infrastructure (to host both events simultaneously) but we can do one after the other.

On his preferences

I would like to prepare properly and do both the WTA and ATP meets in the first quarter of the year. That's the preference. I also don't want to get married to the September date. I'm not jumping up and down for a variety of reasons. For us, January, February and March are the best times to run and event. If I did an ATP and WTA back-to-back, qualifying ATP, main draw, qualifying WTA and main draw. It will be a tennis festival. It will be Indian Wells for me here. We can pull in everyone from a sponsorship perspective and give a good sales pitch. We need a secured place on the calendar.

On potentially hosting a Davis Cup

Chennai is the perfect venue to host a home tie. Whenever India plays a home tie, it's the players who decide the surface (venue). If players pick the hard court as their preference, there is no better place than Chennai for a variety of reasons. We have two Tamil Nadu players in the Davis Cup team. They can make full use of the home advantage. We can even play the tie in Coimbatore.

On hosting a Challenger meet in 2023

Next year, Chennai would be hosting a Challenger, immediately after the Bangaluru event. We haven't decided which category of Challenger though. We will finalise after the Chennai Open. We will take the Futures (lowest rung of events in the international calendar) across Tamil Nadu. We want to have the tournaments in Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore. We are also trying to get a foreign coach who can travel across and conduct clinics. We are also looking at the possibilities of running a 'young legends' event with the likes of Goran (Ivanisevic), (Andy) Roddick, (James)Blake; all the guys in the 40s category. It will be a fantastic event and I think fans will lap it up.

On the financial aspect

The event should always be a hybrid (a partnership between government and private). Either one can't do it alone. We need government support. The numbers are fairly straightforward. We didn't pay any appearance fee. We made a call upfront, not to open our purse for the appearance fee. But we didn't know whether we would get to a point of even breaking even because the government can only do that much. They did. The onus was on us to raise the sponsorships. We had a short period of time to arrange. We are just about getting there to break even.

What Amritraj wants?

Chennai to host three international meets
1 ATP 250
1 WTA 250
1 Challenger sandwiched between two upcoming Bengaluru events
1 'young Legends' event
Multiple Futures spread across Tamil Nadu

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