‘It’s a miracle’: Chennai tennis icon Vijay Amritraj on organising WTA 250 Chennai Open 2022

The city’s biggest tennis event is back after a break. The sport’s icon Vijay Amritraj on what this means to Tamil Nadu

September 15, 2022 03:36 pm | Updated September 19, 2022 07:36 am IST

Vijay Amritraj

Vijay Amritraj | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The wait is finally over for the city’s tennis fans. The Chennai Open is back, with international women tennis players here to compete at the event.

Even since the popular men’s tournament moved to Pune from Chennai in 2018, the city’s tennis-crazy tribe has missed watching live games. Ever since the new State Government took over, it had been suggested that they were ‘very keen’ on bringing tennis back to the city.

And, they have. “It is indeed a miracle,” says Chennai’s tennis icon and Tamil Nadu Tennis Association president Vijay Amritraj, speaking from one of the rooms in the Nungambakkam tennis stadium, explaining how how the stadium, which has faced years of neglect, was turned around in a matter of weeks making the tournament possible. Amritraj says, “Without the State Government’s insistence and support, honestly, it would have been practically impossible to do it.

TNTA president Vijay Amritraj conducting the main draw player ceremony for singles at the WTA Chennai Open at SDAT Tennis Stadium in Nungambakkam

TNTA president Vijay Amritraj conducting the main draw player ceremony for singles at the WTA Chennai Open at SDAT Tennis Stadium in Nungambakkam | Photo Credit: SRINIVASAN KV

The TNTA president hosted players, representatives from the State Government and the who’s who of Chennai at a launch party last Saturday at which saw players, including the highly-rated Eugiene Bouchard walk the ramp in a traditional saree.

While one hopes that the WTA 250 tournament will create a surge in interest in tennis in the city and State, Amritraj says that aspiring players can learn invaluable lessons from professional athletes who are pushing themselves on their way to the top.

“The idea of having these events is to make sure that you are able to see how these girls train, what they do for warm up and afterwards, their eating and practice habits. But, over and above that, it’s a question of how you set yourself up towards getting there,” he says.

“They have been here a few days before the tournament, and all through the day, they were practising. In my welcome letter to them, I said, try not to play too much between 11 am and 2 pm. But they were all out there playing,” he says, adding: “We want young girls to come and watch these matches… to energise themselves. And then the commitment has to come from the athlete. We should not always consider giving wildcards to Indian players; they should be good enough to play on their own,” he says.

Eugiene Bouchard walks the ramp in a traditional saree.

Eugiene Bouchard walks the ramp in a traditional saree. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Amritraj believes that Tamil Nadu’s status as a global investment destination can be enhanced through sports events such as the recently-held Chess Olympiad. “I want names from Chennai, Tamil Nadu and India to be seen worldwide on television. We are in more than 100 countries at this point and that is spectacular for us and our sponsors. We should also talk about what we have in Chennai (and Tamil Nadu) — the incredible beaches, temples, churches and mosques — as a place to visit and experience the food and culture,” he says, adding: “Thirdly, what kind of business can we support? If you are looking at (bringing) more investment in the State, you cannot do it better than through sports. All these girls, when they leave, they are our ambassadors who will talk highly about our city and State,” he says.

Acknowledging that, as the president of Tamil Nadu Tennis Association, there is a lot of work that needs to be done, Amritraj says “There is so much we should do, and can do. At the same time, we need players who are as committed as we are. But, one thing we’re not going to do is let the stadium get rundown again. We’re going to use it such that everything continues to work. It will look as beautiful as it is three months later because a lot of work has gone into this.”

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