New Delhi/Chennai, Jul 20 (PTI) India’s only ATP World Tour event will now be known as Maharashtra Open with owners of the event IMG (Reliance) shifting the tournament to Pune by signing a five-year deal with the MSLTA.
Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) confirmed that IMG (R) have cancelled the contract which was extended till 2019 early this year. TNTA CEO Hiten Joshi explained that the sponsorship for the tournament indeed became an issue leading up to the cancellation of the ATP 250 event in Chennai.
TNTA informed IMG(R) after this year’s edition in January that Aircel will no longer be the title sponsors for the Chennai Open as they will be merging their telecom operations with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Company.
IMG(R) is a joint venture between IMG, which owns the ATP sanction for the Chennai Open, and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Group.
“TNTA had told IMGR that they should find a title sponsor for Chennai Open in 2018 & TNTA would raise the balance funds with the help of the Tamil Nadu Government & other local sponsors and would live up to its obligations under the contract to conduct Chennai Open until 2019.
“TNTA has just received an e-mail from IMGR cancelling the contract to conduct the ATP event in 2018 & 19. TNTA will consult its legal counsel and take appropriate action,” Joshi said in a release.
However, TNTA said it has sent “best wishes for the conduct of the ATP event in Pune”. The season-opening Maharashtra Open will be a USD 550,000 event, which is USD 44,270 more than the Chennai Open.
The hot conditions in Chennai are similar to Melbourne and high altitude Pune will be slightly on colder side.
Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) Secretary General Sunder Iyer though said it won’t be a big factor which players will consider while choosing the event.
“Humidity will be less than Chennai in Pune in January but the surface of our courts will be similar to Australian Open. We will prepare it accordingly,” Iyer told PTI.
Asked that Pune does not have a direct flight to and from Melbourne and top players may prefer direct flights, Iyer said it will also not be a big factor.
“Mumbai is just two hours drive from here and there are many flights from Europe, Dubai to Pune. Those who want to come and play here, will come,” he said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said,”We welcome the world class ATP tournament to our state. We are happy to host the Maharashtra Open and sure that we will take it to newer heights by bringing in an elite field every year.” IMG thanked Tamil Nadu government and TNTA for making the Chennai Open a “grand success.”
“We look forward to similar love from tennis fans in not just in Pune and Maharashtra but in every part of the country. We have created a tennis legacy and have also provided our young players the opportunity to not only play against the best but to also pick up crucial points in world ranking system,” an IMG Spokesperson said.
Tournament director Prashant Sutar said, “We have the best tennis infrastructure in the country. We will strive our best to make the world’s best players and our own, feel at home.”