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India's premier tennis event: the Chennai Open

the Chennai Open Logo

The Chennai Open is part of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) circuit. This hard court tennis championship has been held every year since 1996. At present, it is the only tour-level tennis event held in India. It has featured some of the best players in the game, such as Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya.

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    Chennai's tennis connection

    The Chennai Open is a premier international tennis event and forms part of the ATP 250 series. However, it has never been won by an Indian player. That said, it doesn't mean Indian tennis hasn't produced some great players. In fact, Chennai was home to three tennis legends — Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, and Ramesh Krishnan.

    How the Chennai Open started

    The driving force behind the Chennai Open was the tennis legend, Vijay Amritraj. When International Management Group (IMG) approached Amritraj with the idea of starting this tournament in India. Amritraj promised to see what he could do to help from his side. Thanks to his various contacts in the sporting world, Amritraj ensured that the Chennai Open had a great start.

    Gold Flake was the first sponsor of this tournament in 1996. It was initially known as the McDowell Open and the first-ever tournament was actually played in New Delhi. In 1997 the venue moved to Chennai, and this ATP 250 tournament became known as the Chennai Open. 

    Seeing the success of the Chennai Open, Tata also lent its name to this tournament for a few years. The Telecom company Aircel has also sponsored it for some time. In 2018, the championship changed venue yet again, this time moving to the town of Pune in the state of Maharashtra. As a result, it is now known as the Maharashtra Open.

    The first champion

    As mentioned, the inaugural tournament was played in New Delhi in 1996. That final was won by Thomas Enquist. He beat Byron Black, 6-2, 7-6. Enquist was a top-ranking tennis player in his heyday, and was ranked No.4 by the ATP. 

    The following year, when the tournament moved to Chennai, Mikael Tillstrom of Sweden won the final by beating Alex Radulescu of Germany, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

    Previous winners and runners-up

    Pat Rafter won the 1998 Chennai Open by beating Mikael Tillstrom 6-3, 6-4. Rafter was World No.1 in 1999, and has also won the Australian Open twice.

    In 1999, Byron Black won the title convincingly by beating Rainer Schuttler of Germany. Schuttler was the 2003 runner-up in the Australian Open and a semi-finalist in the 2008 Wimbledon.

    Consecutive victories

    In its 25-year history, only three players have won the Chennai or Maharashtra Cup consecutively. Former World No. 1 Carlos Moya won the Cup in 2004 and 2005 beating Paradom Srichapahan both times. Moya coaches tennis legend Rafael Nadal currently.

    Stan Wawrinka has won the Chennai Cup four times in total, three of those being consecutive wins. The Swiss player, who has also won three Grand Slam titles, first won the Chennai Open in 2011, before hitting a winning streak from 2014 through to 2016. This makes Wawrinka the most prolific Chennai Cup champion.

    Marin Cilic from Croatia has also won two consecutive Chennai Cup titles. He achieved this feat in 2009 and 2010 by beating Somdev Devvarman and Stan Wawrinka, respectively.

    Famous runners-up

    Some famous runners-up in the Chennai Open are:

    • Mikael Tillstrom
    • Rafael Nadal
    • Stan Wawrinka
    • Xavier Malisse
    • Carlos Moya
    • Borna Colic

    Rafael Nadal, one of the greatest tennis players of our time, lost to Mikhail Youzhny in the 2008 finals. Nadal, as we all know, has won 20 Grand Slam titles and was World No. 1 for 209 weeks.

    Indian participation

    No Indian player has won this championship so far. In 2009, Somdev Devvarman advanced to the finals, but ultimately lost out to Marin Cilic of Croatia, 6-4, 7-6.

    However, Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes have won the men's doubles at this tournament five times in total. They had three consecutive victories from 1997 through to 1999, and were again triumphant in 2002. Astonishingly, the pair were also crowned doubles champions in 2011. Several other Indian players have also succeeded in the Chennai Open men's doubles.

    Other champions

    The other Chennai Open champions are:

    • Jerome Golmard
    • Michal Tabara
    • Guillermo Canas
    • Paradom Srichapham
    • Ivan Ljubicic
    • Xavier Malisse
    • Milos Raonic
    • Janko Tipsarevic
    • Roberto Batista Agut

    Since the Chennai Open moved to Pune, three players have won this championship. They are Gilles Simon, Kevin Anderson, and Jiri Vesley

    Conclusion

    There is no doubt that the Chennai Open has attracted several world-class players such as Nadal, Rafter and Wawrinka over the years. It will no doubt see many more in the years to come as it is a prized ATP tournament.


    #Tennis

    Gian Chacko

    Sports enthusiast with love for cricket, football and sports in general. Holds 10+ years of following and writing about sports and lately also betting.