‘We need the budget size of Doha or Perth’: Tournament Director

Aircel Chennai Open Wikimedia Commons

India’s longest running international tennis tournament Aircel Chennai Open is ready to kick off with a long list of names included among the sponsors even though some of the stars who have grown with the tournament have given it a miss.

After making it to Chennai for eight consecutive years for the tournament, Stanislas Wawrinka has decided to skip the event this year, robbing it of some star value. Having won the tournament four times, it is a name being missed by the spectators.

Besides the title sponsor, the other brands which have associated with the tournament include United India Insurance, Indian Bank and Government of Tamil Nadu. This is the third sports event in the country where state government and government-owned companies have been one of the major sponsors.

UP state government had sponsored the World Junior Hockey tournament which was held in Lucknow last month. The International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) was also supported by the Andhra Pradesh government after the promoters tied with the Tourism Department of the state government.

While the 25 brands associated with the tournament may appear to be an impressive list, there is a challenge to pay players better so that they can come again and again. Tournament Director Tom Annear told Sportstar Live “What is required is to have the budget the size of Doha, Brisbane or Perth. That’s really the game changer. We have got a decent budget and the prize money is same as Brisbane but they have got a significant player budget.”

The 22-year-old tournament will soon need to think of ways in which it can be scaled up, get better players so that viewers can return to watch the matches and television viewership can be improved. The deal with its title sponsor, Aircel, is to continue till 2019. Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) has a three-year commitment from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which which also last till 2019.

The Indian challenge for South Asia’s only ATP World Tour event is led by Saketh Myneni, the country’s number one player, making his fourth appearance in the tournament. He was part of the main draw at the US Open last year but narrowly failed to make it past the opening round.