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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Chennai Open 2016 - Ramkumar Ramanathan ~ and Bedene's citizenship !

I know of the MA Chidambaram stadium fondly the Chepauk and many other smaller ones like the Marina stadium, University Union, Gurunanak, AC Tech, India Pistons stadium, Pachaiyappas and more….. places where cricket matches are played.  Then there is the famous Nehru stadium [L & T stadium] for all athletic events and indoor games- not much about  SDAT Tennis Stadium in Chennai,  built on the occasion of the SAF Games in 1995 by the Tamil Nadu Government. It has since played the host to the Chennai Open tennis event annually since 1997.  Chennai open is one of the premier tennis event, the largest of India since 1996.  The event has attracted some of the best names in the tennis circuit since its inception and has  featured stars of the tennis including Rafael Nadal, Boris Becker, Carlos Moya, Richard Krajicek, Patrick Rafter, Yvgeny Kafelnikov, Byron Black and India's own Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. The sponsors have changed and so also the names ~ Mcdowell, Gold Flake, Tata and now Chennai open with new title sponsor – Aircel.


A couple of years back, watched a Semi final match -  Johan Tipsarevic played little known [to me]  A. Bedene.  Read that before this match Bedene has never been in a Semi finals.  Aljaž Bedene is a right hander – he had defeated  4th seed Stanislas Wawrinka in QF to gain a maiden appearance in Semis.  Though he lost today, he won many fans for his sterling performance. 

Now  South Asia's only ATP world tour event, the Aircel Chennai Open 2016 is on ! On Day 1, centre court action started with Croatian Qualifier Ante Pavic taking on Nicolas Almagro of Spain.  In the second centre court match of the day, it was ATP's youngest top 50 player, Borna Coric coming  out all guns blazing as he won the first set in a tie-break.  Day 3 started on a mixed note. Chennai debutant, world no. 12 Kevin Anderson withdrew from the tournament with a left knee injury. Taking his place was lucky loser, Alexander Kudryavtsev who will now face local lad, Ramkumar Ramanathan in the singles second round.

Read this interesting report in Indian Express about the man in the photo.  A Nelson of ranking places is the difference between the Aljaz Bedene of this year, and the Aljaz Bedene that became the first qualifier to reach the final of the Chennai Open last year. The 2015 season, that saw him start as 156 in the world, was one of consistency and calculated growth. This year, armed with a world number 45 rank, he started in the main draw of the SDAT Tennis Stadium. But, along with the confidence he’s brought with him through the successes of last season, he also involuntarily brings a question that has constantly poked his mind for the last few months – will he ever get to play for his adoptive country Great Britain in the Davis Cup?

It was a question that bothered him when he was declared ineligible to play for the team that had reached the final of the Davis Cup last November. As the second best ranked player in Britain behind only Andy Murray, the Slovenia-born player was expected to boost Great Britain’s chances of a win. They did get the win for the first time in 79 years, but without Bedene who was deemed ineligible. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) had set up a rule stating that a player who has represented one country in the Davis Cup may not play for another despite being granted citizenship. Incidentally, Bedene did play for his native country, Slovenia three times between 2010 and 2012. The rule however was brought into place on January 1, 2015, which Bedene earlier claimed was after he had lodged his first application.

The decision to switch nationalities though was actually made back in 2012, long before the ITF could pass the law that currently hinders him. “I wanted to change in 2012. But it took a few years more because you need to be a resident for seven years,” he says. Nonetheless, the case isn’t over. The hearing has been pushed back to when the ITF board of directors next meet in March. There is a hope for Bedene, but there is still the disappointment of not getting to play the final last year.

At the current tournament in Chennai, Bedene brushed aside seventh seeded Canadian Vasek Pospisil in straight sets when they met during the first round of the main draw.  The only local, city boy Ramkumar Ramanathan is living a dream. He got a wild card to play the Chennai Open, stunned World No. 98 Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the first round on Tuesday, and now has a fair chance of making the quarterfinals following the pull-out of his scheduled second-round opponent World No. 12 Kevin Anderson. Anderson, the second seed here and one of the favourites to make the final, announced on Wednesday that he had to withdraw due to a knee injury. The tournament organizers drafted in Russian World No.164 Alexander Kudryavtsev as the `lucky loser' to play the match against Ramkumar.   The last Indian to make the quarterfinals of Chennai Open was Somdev Devvarman in 2009 and there's already a sense of anticipation around Ramkumar after his superb Tuesday performance that he would do the same.

For now, a win on Thursday and an entry into the quarterfinals of Chennai Open will do Ramkumar a world of good. Vanakkam Chennai !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

7th Jan 2016.

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