“WTA Chennai Open is a 1-yr license through choice. We are weighing our options” – Vijay Amritraj

Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) president Vijay Amritraj sat down with the media at the 2022 Chennai Open to talk about the tournament thus far. ITD member Gauri Awasthi was a part of the press conference.

Photo credits: DT Next

Q: What are you most particularly pleased with now that the tournament is coming to a finish?

Amritraj: I think the most important part of this event was that we were able to do it. We would not have been able to it without the support of the Tamil Nadu government who have been awesome, led by the honourable chief minister. They supported us in more ways than one and were with us every step of the way and to get the stadium ready and organised and make sure it looks the way it looks right now. It was done in a very short span of time, it was amazing that we were able to do it. Now that we’ve done it, we were able to create that ambience and the atmosphere that we wanted. I think the stadium looks great, now is the question of using it more.

Q: There has been some talk about the disparity in the number of tournaments on the two tours. How important do you think it was for India to pitch in and bring a women’s event home?

Amritraj: I think we should always look at having the men’s and women’s event. What happened in the last 2-3 years that affected the whole world made it a lot difficult to get things back on track. The fact remains that several of the tournaments that were happening in different parts of the world were in fact called off and that gave us the opportunity to jump right into it at the last minute. I would have liked to have more time to run this event, but the government and the TNTA management have been forthcoming in making this work, putting in 18-20 hours a day to make this work. We need more women’s tournaments across the world, certainly in India. It is meant to truly inspire young girls to play sport. First sports in general, and then tennis in particular as far as we are concerned. But we do believe that we want to encourage more and more girls to play sport through their school and college years.

Q: How long is the license for and do we have confirmation for 2023?

Amritraj: At the moment it’s a one year license through choice. We had that discussion with the license holders. I think we have options at this point and we’re weighing all of them. The toughest challenge is firstly the calendar, and secondly the weather.

So to blend the two together is the challenge and thatโ€™s what we’re trying to overcome. The full calendar for 2023 is not out for both tours, so we’re waiting on that as well. I want to see at what point we’re going to fit in, if there’s a way of using the January, February time slot earlier rather than later.

Q: Having an event immediately after a Slam can be tricky. How challenging was it to put it together?

Amritraj: The week after the US Open is a tricky week because we had only one other event opposite us this week. So if the girls want to come here,  they can go to Tokyo or Seoul after which makes sense. We had a really nice relationship with Sony to do this event because they were covering the US Open as well so that made a big difference. There was a whole slew of stuff that needed to come together. So I was working 14 different time zones to get this together. So what I’m really pleased with is that we’ve not only done it, but I think we’ve done it better than most people expected. The stadium looks great on TV, the players are happy with it. More than anything there were a lot of firsts here. The city of Chennai also has 10 sites where LED screens are showing our matches here.

Q: What have some of the key learnings been from organising an WTA event in India for the first time?

Amritraj: Having played the sport at a high level I know what the four key touch points are for a player.

1. The site and the courts. The court speed and balls.

2. The place where they’re staying should be above and beyond their expectations which we were able to do.

3.  Transport is critical. You do not want to be waiting 30 minutes for a car to take you back and forth.

4. Food that they’re most comfortable with. So you give them the option of domestic cuisine and also what they eat when on the road.

Over and above that, we provided them with opportunities to visit the city and see what we have to offer.

The WTA has indicated to me that a first time event in the city was just magnificent, we’ve heard nothing but good things about it. Television in Europe has told me that the presentation of the event on television has been great. So I think from that perspective we’ve done a good job. But there are always lots of things that fall through the cracks that you may not see but we see, so we’re hoping to fill those loopholes next time around.

Q: How important it is for Indian players to excel at these home tournaments?

Amritraj: We do need Indian tennis players to make Indian tournaments truly a success. That is something that needs constant work. We need our girls and boys to have stronger and stronger commitments to make it like these kids who are playing here. You see this remarkable 17-year-old girl Linda Fruhvirtova here who is playing some remarkable tennis. I’m sure we’re going to see her in the final of Wimbledon. That is why this event is here; to encourage our boys and girls to think that they can do it too. 

To make an event in India truly successful, we need an Indian boy or girl to have a chance to win it. That’s when we’re going to have a packed stadium from Day 1.

Q: On Tamil Nadu`s plans for tournaments?

1 ATP 250
1 WTA 250
1 Challenger sandwiched between two upcoming Bengaluru events
1 ‘young Legends’ event
Multiple Futures spread across Tamil Nadu

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