Third phase of ATP 250 "Tata Open Maharashtra" kicks off from today

Last Updated: Monday, 3 February 2020 (17:45 IST)
:- Abhijit Deshmukh

Pune city, Known as the oxford of East has created the identity of India's tennis capital for many years.
In the last 4 years, there have been six international tennis tournaments in Pune city.  Many tennis tournaments like Davis Cup, ITF Futures and ATP Challenger were held but the milestone has been "Tata Open Maharashtra".  The winner of this competition not only gets a huge financial sum but also gets valuable 250 ATP points. 

This tournament is the largest tennis tournament not only in India but also in the whole of Southeast Asia. 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic, 2018 Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson have competed in the past two editions.  From 3rd February 2020, the third phase of the tournament will be held at Balewadi Tennis Stadium in Pune.  Only 38 cities in the world have been honored to host the ATP 250 tournament. Maharashtra State Association Secretary and tournament co-director Sundar Iyer spoke to webdunia about the journey so far.
From where did the concept of organizing a grand competition in Pune like ATP 250 came?
- From 1960 to 1980, Pune have hosted several tennis events have under the guidance of Dr. Gangadhar Ranade.  It  included the historic India Vs Pakistan tie at the Deccan Gymkhana in 1963. Due to the lack of seating capacity the international competitions have taken a hault.  In 2008, we got the grand tennis center of Balewadi. We started organizing important competitions like ATP Challenger, ITF Futures competition of different age groups.  In 2017, we hosted India Vs  New Zealand Davis Cup tie. It was a huge success and we even got award by the International Tennis Federation. Since 2008, we are organizing 3 to 4 international tennis tournaments every year in Pune and our confidence was high. We thought to go for big and aimed to host ATP 250.  Coincidentally, in the same year, the ATP 250 from Chennai was moving out. We bid for it and we got it. This year will be third edition of the tournament, organized by Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association, IMG-Reliance.
How big opportunity is for tennis lovers?
- It's India only ATP event and the biggest tennis tournament in Southeast Asia.  It is a matter of pride for Puneites, as only 38 cities in the world are hosting it. This competition is a great opportunity for tennis lovers, school children and fans.  Kids are motivated by watching quality tennis in the stadium and thats how affection for sports starts.  Today, there are three Indian players in world Top 150.
It is a fact that the tennis players of India, Prajnesh Ganeshwaran, Sumit Nagal are getting into top 100. People are getting attracted to tennis and they have a great chance of watching quality tennis here. Last year, about 30 kids from the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh came to see the competition. You can imagine how is the craze for tennis growing. 
Which tennis players are participating this year?
- Few players that were in top 10 of the world are participating in this competition. France's Benoit Paire is  top seed, last year's runner up Croatia's Ivo Karlovic is also seeded.  India's Sumit Nagal, who won the set against Roger Federer at the US Open last year, will also be competing.  India's singles top players, Prajnesh Ganeshwaran, Ram Kumar Ramanathan, will also play in the tournament. In addition, some emerging players from around the world are participating in the competition. In doubles legendary Leander Paes, Robert Lindstedt, Jonathan Eric,  Robin Haase will be in action. Rohan Bopanna has paired up with local boy Arjun Kadhe this time.
What's new in this edition of Tata Open Maharashtra?
- This edition will feature shot clocks which will see counting 25 seconds allowed between the point.  The role of Ball Kids is vital to the success of every tennis tournament. The legendary Roger Federer also worked as a ball kid
In his childhood. Being a Ball Kids is always a unique experience for youngsters and it is an opportunity to watch tennis players closely. So we held ball kids selection trials this year. More than 100 young childrens of Pune and different cities of Maharashtra responded.  With the hand-eye coordination skills, speed and agility, 30 lucky have been selected as Ball Kids.  We are going to give these kids more training and they will play the important role during the competition. 

In the previous edition of the tournament, Shravin Samak who was ball kid has been selected to this year's Australian Open. Parents will also get to experience how the world of tennis is, and this competition is a great opportunity for them who want their children to pursue career in tennis. We will also arrange  special workshops for parents.  Along with this, a fan park, interaction with the player and a cheerful atmosphere will be created at the Balewadi Tennis Center.
2018 Singles winner: - Giles Simon(France), runner-up: Kevin Anderson (South Africa)
2018 Doubles winner: - Robin Hasse - Mattwe Middelkopp (Netherlands) Runners up: - Giles Simon - Pierre Herbert (France)
 2019 Single winner: - Kevin Anderson (South Africa), runner-up: - Ivo Karlovic (Croatia)
2019 Doubles winner:- Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan (India)
Runner-up:- Luke Bambridge/Jonny O'Mara (England)