Saturday, Mar 24, 2018 | Last Update : 10:00 AM IST
The stakes will be high with a star-studded line up at the ATP tournament.
The world’s top tennis players in the likes of Marin, Cilic, Kevin Anderson, Robin Haase, Ivo Karlovic, Simon Gilles and Roberto Bautista Agut will hit the Tennis courts of Mhalunge Balewadi Stadium, Pune from January 1 to 6 for the Maharashtra Open. The qualifiers of the ATP 250 World Tour event will be played on December 30 and 31.
For the last 21 years, the tournament was played in the Tamil Nadu capital as Chenna Open and became a popular place for young Indian and international players to forge their way on to the big stage. Indian aces Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati earned a name after winning the doubles title thrice in three years (1997, 1998 and 1998).
The tournament could not be held in Chennai as IMG-Reliance who holds the rights of the ATP 250 level tournament cancelled their contract with Tamil Nadu Lawn Tennis Association two years prior.
Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) bagged the rights to hold the tournament after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis wrote a letter to request the organising rights of the tournament. “When we heard that Chennai Open may not be organised, we wrote a letter and we requested that we should be given a chance to host this tournament. We can make this a signature tournament for the state of Maharashtra,” added the CM unveiling TATA as the sponsors for Maha Open on Wednesday.
“I think we have a lot of tennis lovers in our country and our state. They keenly watch Wimbledon, French Open, and US Open on televison but watching a high ranked tournament live is a visual treat. We will be happy to upgrade our infrastructure and create an arrangement where every year we can hold this tournament. This will start a new era in the lawn tennis space of Maharashtra,” further added the CM.
The Balewadi stadium is getting the final touches with not much time left to spare. Tournament director Prashant Sutar revealed that it took `60-70 lakh of investment to revamp the stadium. “The seating capacity was limited earlier and now the upgrade is in order to maximise the seating with around 60-70 lacs of investment,” said Sutar.
The event will be held a week prior to the Australian Open serving practice to the top players. Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moya, Stanislas Wawrinka and Milos Raonic are some of the many well-known old pupils of the competition. This year world rank number 20, Roberto Bautista Agut from Spain will defend his title. World rank number 6, Marin Cilic is named as the most dangerous player of the tournament. Tata Open Maharashtra carries a prize money of US $550,000.