Following is the print version of an interview of Prashant Sutar, the tournament director of Tata Open Maharashtra 2022 conducted by tennis star Arjun Kadhe. The original video interview can be found here.
Arjun Kadhe: How do you feel about the tournament being back? How excited are you?
Prashant Sutar: This TATA Open Maharashtra is certainly a flagship tournament of the Government of Maharashtra and Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association. And, you know, during the COVID times, all the players were struggling to get out of the country due to a lot of restrictions and like how difficult it was, and only a few could travel and rest all were stuck in India. So, we were thinking, the MSLTA, you know, we should do something. So did ITFs Challengers. And now we thought that you know, there are a lot of talks about whether we really want to do this in these pandemic times when cases are increasing. But, from the player’s point of view, it is a really high time that now, we should have this tournament, so that lot Indian players can benefit from these, we got a joint decision with the government of Maharashtra authority, then the state association that I think we should go ahead and do this event for the players.
Arjun Kadhe: I would like to know as you said in Covid Times it was not easy. How was it getting back this tournament and how was it different from the other two years before covid and this year setting it up or with ATP or with Omicron.
Prashant Sutar: Yes, basically we are still not sure about what the government of India is going to come up with their policies and how Omicron is going to behave in India in the next two weeks. So, we are still not clear, we just hope that things will not get worse than this and we are completely uncertain, because the government of Maharashtra, the Government of India keep changing their norms as per the conditions of the COVID. So, first of all, we are not confirmed about it, because once you say yes then we have to start with all the logistics and resources by a line calling our score, live scoring systems, TV productions. Then the entire channel the court resurfacing life checking out the resources get engaged, we are going ahead with spending on the resources taking the chance that you know things will go well and in worse condition, if things really go bad in India and Government of Maharashtra takes a call, then only we can make a decision. Including Sundar Iyer and the team are at Balewadi Stadium in Pune right now, because we just have 10 days left and we decided last week like in a short amount of time our entire our team is behind this doing the return of stadium because for two years there was nothing, no event that happened. Luckily we got the exemption from the government of Maharashtra also for them to consider the bubble as a home for the players, so it will be automatically considered as a home quarantine. It’s a big relief that no player has to be quarantined.
Arjun Kadhe: Looking at the positive side, Russia’s Aslan Karatsev who was voted the most improved player in 2021 is coming so what are your thoughts on the top seed, big-hitting Russian.
Prashant Sutar: Yes, we certainly are happy he had a great Australia. He had a great run. So we are excited to have him. First of all, he agreed that coming to Pune itself is an achievement for the Maharashtra Open. I would say that players are willing to come and play in our tournament because for the last three years, the team MSLTA and all the organizations are giving great efforts to make this tournament better every year. So it’s going to be a treat seeing him playing from the closed stadium and the Indian tennis lovers are going to be excited to see him play. And how he performs is going to be fun.
Arjun Kadhe: A lot of Doubles teams and a lot of doubles players have also benefited along the way through this tour event. Do you have a specific favourite moment where you can still relate to the win?
Prashant Sutar: Yes. I think for the Indian players, in 2019 Divij Sharan and Rohan Bopanna won the Doubles, that was the moment I really cherish, recent memories like in the last edition there was a Doubles match Leander Paes and Australia’s M Ebden they had a really good match in the quarterfinals against Indian Duo of P Raja and R Ramanathan. That was a good match. So a lot of memories from Pune editions.
Arjun Kadhe: What is your take on all the support you’ve got for this tournament?
Prashant Sutar: Yeah, see, as everyone knows, initially in any event of any magnitude like this is an ATP 250. But any event in Maharashtra anywhere requires support from the local authorities and the local government and MSLTA is fortunate enough to have strong support from the government. And especially there are two gentlemen, I would like to mention this one is Mr Sanjay Khandare, he himself is a tennis player and, a senior bureaucrat in Maharashtra and Mr Pravin Darade, Organising Secretary of Tata Open Maharashtra, both of them are so passionate and not only for tennis but for all sports. They’re like so passionate, anything wherever we stuck, they are there for us, whether it’s External Affairs Ministry, whether it is that sports department whether it is our sponsors, so wherever we are stuck they come and support MSLTA and especially this tournament, so I think we must, say a big thanks from all the tennis fraternity, MSLTA to these two gentlemen supporting us since last seven, eight years. Like the Tribal Academy in Nagpur, which was also initiated by Mr Pravin. Then a lot of other small tournaments in ATP Mr Khandare is actively involved and is still involved. So, we must thank them enough. For the MSLTA team, we have a set pattern of organizing tournaments with the strong leadership of Bharat Oza and Sunder Iyer. So, we feel we are lucky to have this entire team gathered together.
Arjun Kadhe: Tell us about the passion Pune has for Tennis and what are your thoughts on the support people give to the tournament and in general the love for Tennis. Your view on Pune as a tennis-loving city?
Prashant Sutar: Pune has a rich history of tennis right from Deccan Gymkhana days of Davis cup, India-Pakistan or grass courts. Pune has produced so many great players over the years. So we have legacies, you know Nandan Bals, Kirtanes and now Kadhes, Adhikars, Sashi Menon. Pune is known as the capital of tennis in India. And secondly, all the club members and the state association plays a major role, getting everything together and we are a fantastic team with our president Mr Bharat Oza, Suder is there, the Secretary. So this entire team. If you do a good job sponsors will come forward to support.
Arjun Kadhe: Lastly, your predictions for this year’s tournament?
Prashant Sutar: Yeah, my prediction, you know, first of all, I would like an Indian team to win the doubles for sure. And if that happens we are 50% of our efforts will really go into the gold mines. And secondly, I would like the Indians to also at least reach the semifinals, finals because the main tournament motto is to get the Indians to the forefront. But there are lots and lots of good players who have joined Musetti and Karatsev are on the squad so the field is very tough even though they don’t have the big brand names.
Tata Open Maharashtra, South Asia’s only ATP Tour tournament, owned by IMG and operated by RISE Worldwide in India, is all set to make its much-anticipated return at Pune’s Balewadi Stadium with its 4th edition, scheduled from January 31 to February 6.