The Chennai Open was a rite of passage. Every January, while global tennis aficionados talked about the Qatar Open, the Hopman Cup, the Kooyong Classic, and the Brisbane Open, the Chennai Open was the place to be for Indian tennis followers and players alike.

But all good things, as they say, must come to an end. And, regardless of what addition it brought to the international tennis pool, the Chennai Open was no exception to this adage.

Despite the curtains falling down on the Chennai Open, Indian players are still satisfied that an ATP tournament will be conducted in the country. The tournament will now be held in Pune, as the Maharashtra Open.

What do the players think?

“The young players always went out there and really had something to look forward to for the whole year,” said former Indian No 1 Somdev Devvarman. The 2009 Chennai Open finalist, who also shared that the tournament was instrumental in shaping his decision to go professional, said that this shift in venues needed to be the catalyst to ensure a better set-up was in the offing. “It’s definitely tough, but hopefully we miss the Chennai Open enough to get it back [and] bring it back in a bigger and better way.”

Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan won his first ATP doubles title at the 2017 Chennai Open, partnering Rohan Bopanna. Going by recent events, Nedunchezhiyan wouldn’t be able to defend his title in Chennai, a city where he resides. However, he sees the bigger picture.

“[I am] happy that India still has an [ATP] Tour event,” the 28-year-old told The Field. “India has one tournament a year which I can consider as playing as a home-town event so I am happy that it’s still in our country. [I am] sad that it’s not in Chennai anymore. [But], it is what it is. [I am] excited to play in Pune as always.”

Nedunchezhiyan, however, did point out that alongside being relieved about retaining India’s lone contribution to the top-rung of the ATP circuit, there also needed to be an impetus about adding more tournaments to the country’s tennis profile.

“[It] would be nice to see more such Tour-level events in India through the year to help us all go higher in the rankings because playing at home is a big advantage [for Indian players],” he said.

The possibility of more ATP Tour tournaments being added to the Indian portfolio in a tennis calendar remains unknown at this point. However, it does become necessary to ensure that the continuity of the newly-assigned Maharashtra Open doesn’t get bogged down by the same problems that greeted its predecessor.

New beginnings, a start anew

The shifting of the venues and its eventual renaming came amid the backdrop of financial and political instability. However, recent as this development seems to be, it also seems to have been precipitated by the way the tournament unfolded this year.

For starters, Stan Wawrinka, who had been a regular at the tournament since his first appearance in 2009, opted to play in Brisbane instead of returning back to Chennai to defend his title for the fourth time earlier this year.

With other players choosing to play either in Brisbane and Doha, Marin Cilic was the only top-10 player who played in the 2017 Chennai Open. As empty as the draw looked, his unexpected upset in the first round to Slovakia’s Jozef Kovalik added to the paltriness of the tournament, before Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut redeemed the tournament’s floundering.

Looking back, Wawrinka’s decision to change his preferential tournament from Chennai to Brisbane wasn’t entirely surprising. “You [fans] should put pressure on [tournament director] Tom [Annear]. I will try to come back here next year,” he had said. It also hinted that beyond appreciation about the tournament and consistency in his results, he was also considering the monetary aspect at play.

Wawrinka’s absence was also similar to the way Rafael Nadal’s participation in the tournament had petered out after two consecutive years of participation in 2007 and 2008. In the nine years since, Nadal has intermittently opted to play in Doha, while in 2017, he chose Brisbane as a preparatory tournament before the Australian Open.

As compared to the erstwhile Chennai Open, both Doha and Brisbane have deeper financial coffers, which reflected in the players committing to play in those tournaments. Going forward, this aspect will need to be weighed in by the organisers of the Maharashtra Open as well, alongside trying to retain the Indian fervour in the international tennis construct.