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Saturday, July 22, 2017

TNPL about to start ~ Chennai Open is no more !!

The Indian heartthrob  MS Dhoni and Australian legend Matthew Hayden will go head to head in a six-hitting competition before the inaugural TNPL match tomorrow. Both players, who played for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, made a name for themselves as big hitters during their respective careers.   Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) 2017 commencing today will be a boon to Cricket-starved fans of Chennai  - today at Chepauk,  the defending champions Albert TuTi Patriots takes on the Dindigul Dragons.  A star-studded six-hitting contest ahead of the game will kick off the second edition of the tournament. The competition should be an intense one as Hayden finished his career with an incredible 182 while Dhoni has already scored an astonishing 322 big ones in his career. Besides them,   Mohit Sharma, S Badrinath, Pawan Negi, Anirudha Srikkanth will face a bowling machine and attempt to clear the ropes.

Chennai sports is not all about Cricket alone ~ there is space for Football, Hockey, Volleyball, Carrom, Kabaddi, Tennis ~ Roberto Bautista, Stan Wawrink, Wawrinka, Janko Tipsarevic, Milos Raonic  ~ the recent winners and sadly, none would get added to that list !!!

Those of us watching Cricket for decades – have been to 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; Egmore Stadium, Rajarathinam stadium and  ………   SDAT Tennis Stadium  !  ~ the one built on the occasion of the SAF Games in 1995 by the Tamil Nadu Government that has hosted for 2 decades the Chennai Open tennis event annually since 1997.

Tennis is not new to Chennai - John Newcombe in his s autobiography, ‘Life on and off the court’ wrote about playing in 1973 in Davis Cup in Chennai.  The early rounds of our Davis Cup campaign under captain Neale Fraser took us to Japan and India. With Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall temporarily unavailable, Mal Anderson, Geoff Masters and I were the singles players, while Geoff and I handled the doubles. Our Cup tie at Chepauk in Madras, southern India, was held in unbelievable temperature regularly over the 40-degree-Celsius mark. After three games you’d be drenched with sweat.  Amritrajs were to play them then.
Carlos Moya on elephant – pic credit : the Hindu

For them -  the arrival of the Gold Flake Open (later known as Aircel Chennai Open) was a dream come true. For two decades now,  Young and old thronged to SDAT Tennis Stadium (also known simply as 'Nungambakkam Stadium'), to watch world-class action.   Thomas Enqvist, the winner of the inaugural 1996 edition (held at New Delhi), was the first to make an emotional connect with the public. Yet another Swede, Mikael Tillstrom, then a top-40 player, conquered the arena in 1997.  He reserved his best for  Chennai summer.  Carlos Moya's love affair with Chennai Open continued for many years.  2003 winner and three-time finalist Paradorn Srichaphan was adopted as Chennai’s son. The talented strokemaker was from Thailand, but fans erased geographical boundaries and embraced him as their own.  The Indian interest, meanwhile, was ruled by the doubles combination of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. The duo announced their arrival by winning the tournament in 1997.

To all the fans, the news came sad - IMG-Reliance, the right holders of the tournament along with Government of Maharashtra and Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA), announced this on Wednesday, revealing Pune to be the new city to host the 2018 edition. It will henceforth be called the 'Maharashtra Open'.  No more ‘Chennai Open’ – the death of a 21 long years of high quality Tennis tournament.   With the demise of Chennai chapter, the ATP 250 event, now rechristened 'Maharashtra Open', will be held in Pune in 2018.

In a statement, the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) said that they received an email from IMGR cancelling the contract to conduct the event in 2018 and 2019. TNTA further said it would consult its legal counsel and take appropriate action. Aircel Chennai Open, Gold Flake Open and Tata Open had all been its earlier names !~ now it is the shift in venue itself, that leaves Chennai fans saddened.

More the reason to follow and cheer for our own Premier league – TNPL.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

22nd July 2017.

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