Chennai Open is India and South East Asia’s only ATP tournament and has been for the past 22 years. The tournament holds strong history of seeing future stars lift trophies or go on to make the latter parts of the main draw. Champions such as Boris Becker, Rafa Nadal, Carlos Moya, Pat Rafter, three time defending and four time winner Stan Wawrinka have graced the courts here.
The tournament has also been a haven for future stars to bring the season to a good start with the likes of Paradorn Srichaphan making the final four times and winning once and Nadal being a prime example.
This time, for the 2017 edition, Marin CIlic was the marquee name. A two-time champion here – in 2009 and 2010 – he would go on to bigger things by winning the US Open in 2014. But his 2017 won’t start off with a win as he would go down 6-7, 7-5, 5-7 to Slovakia’s Josef Kovalik.
In tennis, as with many other sports, there are those who can pull the crowd. Nadal, Moya and Wawrinka were such players for the Chennai crowd. If the second round was any indication, Cilic can’t be added to that list yet.
Ticket sales throughout the week have been lackluster. On Thursday, nearly 500 tickets were sold which give access to any court inside the stadium complex. A day later, with quarterfinals in singles draw well underway, sales had improved but not by a significant margin. This is in sharp contrast to the average attendance of 2000 from last year in the final three days.
“The ticket sales is a weak link and we are looking to address it. Even though it’s been improving, it still makes for only a very small percentage of the overall revenue. The attendance rises towards the later part of the tournament, the last three days to be precise,” Tournament Director Tom Annear had said to The Hindu in 2016.
“Bringing in the crowd early on in the tournament is something that we need to work on,” he would go on to add.
Tickets aren’t expensive either at the Chennai Open which could shy away the crowds even with plenty of seats reserved for corporates or officials.
Karti Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) vice-president, maintains that the attendance is at par with other ATP 250 events across the globe.