In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the 2022 tennis season came to a close. And just as quickly, the 2023 season began. On December 29, the United Cup kicked off the tennis calendar with much fanfare in the cities of Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.
Meanwhile, in Pune, India, the Tata Open Maharashtra campaign has also kicked off with qualifying action underway. This year, the tournament will be played in what has been its usual place on the ATP Tour itinerary, that is, before the Australian Open.
In recent years, in 2020 and 2022, the event had been moved to the first week of February, right after the conclusion of the first Major of the year, Down Under. This return has added to the upbeat mood around the tournament and especially for its organizers.
“It’s great to have the tournament back to the (original) scheduled week and back to where it started,” shared Sunder Iyer, Secretary of the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA), which runs the tournament.
At the same time, Mr. Iyer is also not ignorant of the other factors that contributed to this rescheduling. “This is also due to the time change in Australia. It has really helped the (tournament) cause,” he mentioned, alluding to the fact that the United Cup (a combined men’s and women’s tournament) replaced the still fledgling ATP Cup.
However, according to Mr. Iyer, the event organizers in India found out about the change only a couple of months ago and although they had to rush with preparation, they were still up for the challenge and put together a great tournament. .
However, despite the best efforts of the organizers to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s, certain events arise that seem to be out of their control. In the case of the Pune Open, a week after its scheduled start, there was a brief scare due to the resurgence of Covid-19 cases.
“(Luckily), it’s only a week away and we can’t make any changes. It’s (still) like a little more work,» Iyer acknowledged. Despite the unpredictability of the situation, there has still been a silver lining in the dark clouds that have greeted the event for the past two years.
The Tata Open Maharashtra’s struggle to survive in the new normal
In 2021, the ATP Pune was canceled in the face of the uptick in the pandemic. On the other hand, in 2022 it was held amid increased restrictions, one of which was the lack of spectators and fans at the venue.
And this year, this is the main reason to celebrate the return of the tournament to the country, according to Iyer. “These are all difficult times,” he said. “But at least we can have a ticketed event. We are happy that it is a public event and that was the only thing we missed last year”.
The return of the crowd and the return of the players themselves brings me back to a rather important topic of what’s next for the tournament and its legacy for tennis in India over the years it has been around.
On the subject, Mr. Iyer mentioned, “We are trying to keep the event in India. (But) it’s too early to tell. (So), our focus is to keep the tournament good (this year) before we talk about next year. (We are looking) game by game instead of looking at the title.»
Similarly, the conclusion of the Tata Open Maharashtra, India’s only ATP Main Tour event, goes beyond just continuing in the country for Mr. Iyer. In his opinion, the presence of the tournament has been aimed at building a viable «ecosystem» of the sport in the country.
“(A) a right ecosystem is being created which is good for Indian tennis,” he said, continuing, “This ecosystem has to continue. So this is the correct way to look at it. We are all happy with the event and how it has gone (through the years). (But the greatest) impact that the event has created (has been) in the country’s tennis ecosystem.»