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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Chennai Open – The show must go on

Chennai has been hosting the Annual ATP Tennis event for the last 8 years and if corporates are reluctant to show support, the event might lose its appeal. Although the event has a glorious past it’s current form is not what the tennis enthusiasts would really adore.

Back in the days when tobacco firms were allowed to advertise, ITC came in as the sponsor and the event was called the Gold Flake Open. ITC’s Y C Deveshwar made it a point to be part of the proceedings during this period. Tata Group acted as the sponsor from 2002 to 2004 and the event was called TATA Open. Big corporates backed out from 2005 and hence the event was rechristened as Chennai Open. Tennis might not have the same fan following as cricket, but it does have some appeal. Designer labels, European fashion houses and Swiss watches are advertising heavily in some of the lifestyle and business magazines in India. It might be a good platform for these brands to be associated with the Chennai Open (as the title sponsor). Chennai is the auto hub of India and one of the biggies like Ford or Hyundai might be an ideal sponsor.

Paradorn Srichaphan posing during the photo shoot of Chennai Open 2005

I have been a spectator in two of the earlier editions of the tournament and I can definitely say that the atmosphere at the Nungambakkam stadium was quite electric. I understand that the current event has lost its sheen. The two prominent reasons being the lack of top-notch sponsors and the lack of top-notch players. Chennai Open clashes with Adelaide and Doha ATP tournaments, which offer attractive prize money. One should congratulate the TN State government and the Tamilnadu Tennis Association for putting up a brave effort in ensuring that Chennai plays host to this prestigious event every year. The authorities have somehow roped in a group of sponsors till the year 2009. The group consists of PSU banks and some Chennai-based family managed business houses. My only wish is that the authorities and the tennis enthusiasts should work together to revive this event so that it can regain atleast some of the past glory.

ATP has launched some player blog to create some buzz about the tournament. Ivan Ljubicic blogs about his experiences in Chennai. Some excerpts from his blog:

We had the opening ceremony at 4 pm. I was there with Moya, Stepanek and Srichaphan. There was a little bit of rain but it didn’t interrupt us.

Then I did some long, long interviews until 6. 15 pm with lots of newspapers and TV. Everyone was interested in my past season and my goals for the next month. India is a huge country with a lot of people and media, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised with all the questions. I’ve never done so many interviews at one time, but there were lots of interesting questions, so it was fine.

One thing I hadn’t thought of in India is the need to avoid putting ice in your drinks. People have said to me that you never know what type of water was used to make the ice and it could carry some health risks.

Tomorrow my wife will get out and see some of the city. The hotel is really beautiful but it’s not the real Chennai. She wants to see what everyday life in Chennai is like. I hope to be able to take a look around on Wednesday.

Driving from the Chennai airport to the hotel, one of the first things to strike you is just how chaotic the traffic is. While it’s similar to what you find in China and Croatia when you’re off the main highways, I said to my wife ‘I wonder what Americans would make of this?’ It’s hard to comprehend the volume of traffic on the road and the chaotic way people drive. Most of the time there aren’t any traffic lights or lines on the road. People just weave in and out I’m amazed there aren't more accidents.

And, picture this: It’s common to see a man driving a humble motorbike with his wife sitting sidesaddle on the back, holding an infant (or two!) in her arms. No-one is wearing a helmet!


  • Kaps,
    Happy New Year!
    For a tournament with no dearth of crowd support (Chennai's the best when it comes to knowledgable crowds), its sad to see the corporate sponsors backing away. Last year, i was rooting fot Srichapan in the final and the atmospehere was electric!

    By Blogger Bala (Karthik), at 7:11 PM  

  • Yo,
    Happy new year. I ve attended coupla matches till now and the crowd has been quite good. Has been less support fr Ljubicic as ppl find it hard to shout out his name and show their support.

    In response to the blog, I believe ppl have taken to having pictures of lord ganesha inside their cars rather than wearing a helmet...

    By Blogger Chennai chatter, at 2:27 AM  

  • Hi Kaps. Happy New Year.

    I know what you mean - I used to study at a school just a street away from the stadium during the 1st few years of this tournament (during the Goldflake Open days), and all students of the school were given tickets at discounts and stuff. Another thing was that in those years, the tournament was held in May or June. What this meant was that all schools had closed for the summer hols, and we went in huge groups with class mates and stuff. By hosting it in early January, the organisers are almost automatically losing out on the senior school kids - most of whom are rather stressed out with the infamous board exams less than 2 months away.

    Another reason for this is probably the breaking up of the Bhupathi-Paes duo. Those initial years, there was such a massive fan following for the chest-thumping, crowd-encouraging Indian duo, that crowds would literally flow into Centre court at the Numgambakkam stadium to watch their matches. Since their split-up, the pride flavour has been lost, and Tennis in India is still hugely dependant on this flavour - we need Indians to do well like Sania Mirza in 2005 to bring out any wide-spread interest in the sport.

    By Blogger Aye Kay, at 7:55 AM  

  • Wish you a happy new year, Kaps...

    On your last para... I saw a picture in TOI Mumbai edition, with 5 people riding on a motor bike... a Couple with their 3 kids, out of which only one was an infant.

    Bikes made for Indian environment should accomodate more people..... that would be the motto of any vehicle manufacturing company!!

    By Blogger Ram.C, at 3:48 PM  

  • Kaps, trust you to make a sensible and valid point and thumbs up for quoting his blog. :-) Happy New Year.

    By Blogger Deepa, at 5:38 PM  

  • @Bala,
    I guess crowd support has also declined over the years.

    @Chennai Chatter,
    I guess people cheer regular visitors like Srichapan and Carlos Moya

    @Aye Kay,
    I can relate to what you say. Guess u studied in PSBB. I think the organizers felt that summers are too hot and they don't coincide with the Asian calendar. Scheduling the tournament in Jan ensures that all the players are in Asia as they will be gearing up for the Australian open

    Wait for Tata's new car....it should look like a covered auto....for a price around Rs. 1 lakh. families of 4 and above can graduate from the tow wheeler to this economy car.

    glad to know that u liked it.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 12:44 PM  

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