Other States

How Pune put India on the world map of tennis

Top draw: Yuki Bhambri (second from left) after beating Ramkumar Ramanathan (extreme right) in the singles finals of the KPIT-MSLTA ATP Challenger in Pune on November 18.

Top draw: Yuki Bhambri (second from left) after beating Ramkumar Ramanathan (extreme right) in the singles finals of the KPIT-MSLTA ATP Challenger in Pune on November 18.  

The State association’s long-term commitment, promoters’ persistent resolve, and spectators’ keen interest make the city prime venue for top tennis tournaments

About 2,500 spectators turned up at the Mhalunge-Balewadi Sports Complex on November 18 to watch the doubles and the singles finals of the KPIT-MSLTA $50,000 + Hospitality ATP Challenger.

While Tomslav Brkic of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ante Pavic of Croatia teamed up to beat the Spanish duo of Pedro Martinez and Adrian Menendez-Marceiras 6-1, 7-6 (6) for the doubles crown, Yuki Bhambri got the better of Ramkumar Ramanathan 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a 2-hour 22-minute battle of the top-ranked singles players of the country.

Ahead of the summit clash, Rogerio Santos, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) supervisor for the event, said: “The return of investments is there for all to see. The final will be played between two Indians — Yuki Bhambri ranked 137 in the world and Ramkumar Ramanathan, ranked 150. There are 10 Indian players in the main draw [of 32].”

Mr. Santos attributed the large Indian presence in the tournament to the resources put in by KPIT, a Pune-based technology company, and the fillip given to the sport by the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association. Mr. Santos, a coach for close to two decades who was involved in the development of the sport in Portugal, praised the promoter and the State association’s long-term commitment to tennis.

Never say die spirit

Indian players and European players who competed in the tournament have backed Mr. Santos’s observation. They strongly believe that it’s easy to start an ATP event, but difficult to sustain it. Several top-rung ATP and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tournaments in India, which were begun with much fanfare and promise, wound up after one or two editions. In contrast, the Challenger, with a prize money of $7,200 for the men’s singles champion, has just completed its fourth edition.

Kishor Patil, KPIT’s co-founder, MD & CEO, said, “The Indian players advised us to position a $50,000 + Hospitality event and not with a total prize money of $75,000. The first option entailed a commitment of boarding, lodging and transport to the players in the main draw. The second option would have limited our commitment to prize money. The first option was better for the Indian players in particular.”

What mattered most to the Indian players, ranked in the 137- 352 band, was the substantial number of ATP points the week-long competition offered: 80 for the winner, 48 for the runner-up, 29 for the semifinalists and 15 for the quarterfinalists.

The points earned in a tournament and over a period of the professional tennis season measure a player’s performance. For example, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov’s ATP Finals win in London with an all-five match win record took him to the World No.3 position behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The 26-year-old Bulgarian won 1,500 points; he was World No. 40 in July last year.

The ATP and WTA events are the lifeblood of serious practitioners of the sport. Indian professionals plying their trade in the ITF Futures events are thrilled that people with genuine interest in the sport have demonstrated their resolve to keep Pune on the world tennis map.

Rohan Bopanna, India’s doubles specialist who was raised in Pune between 1995 and 2000, says ITF Futures events are a stepping stone for budding professionals, and the Challengers give them an opportunity to make breakthroughs.

Mr. Bopanna said, “Indian players know now that the Challenger will happen in Pune every year. It’s fantastic to see two Indians in the final. More Challengers will help the youngsters to watch and learn and bring more people to watch the sport.”

World-class contests

Early this year, Pune hosted the Davis Cup match between India-New Zealand. The city will be ringing in the New Year for the sport in India with the Maharashtra Open, an ATP 250-series competition that is expected to attract top players. Professionals see the event as an important tournament leading to the Australian Open.

With these two ATP events, Pune has established its place as a major tennis centre in the country.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 11:32:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/how-pune-put-india-on-the-world-map-of-tennis/article20629345.ece

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