Indian tennis has quietly been getting better, even though it may not seem like that. While legends like Leander Paes and Sania Mirza play on, and relatively newer ones like Yuki Bhambri are doing great (but not amazing yet), a younger crop of tennis players is turning up for tournaments across the country. Indian tennis tournaments, across all age groups, are being played across the country. Here are some of the tennis tournaments in India held by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) in 2018.
AITA organises a number of tennis tournaments in India; below are the important ones held every year.
CS (Championship Series)
SS (Super Series)
TS (Talent Series)
These are played by both girls & boys, and across the age groups of Under-12, 14, 16, 18.
The venues are fairly well-spread throughout the country. For instance, 2018 sees Championship Series tournaments held in Karnal, Amritsar, Pune, Coimbatore, Kolkata, Imphal, Bangalore and many, many others. There are also specific tournaments like CS7 & TS7, which are also held across the country; TS7 meets, for instance, are in Lucknow, Delhi, Bangalore, Bahadurgarh, Raipur, Sonipat, Chandigarh and many other places.
Over the past years, many have impressed here. For instance, Orissa’s Aditya Satpathy took the Under-18 title in CS7 Lucknow 2018 despite undergoing surgery barely 2 months ago.
In SS Anantapur 2016, Bhakti Shah played in both Under-16 singles & doubles; while she lost the singles, she won the doubles with K S Shimran. On the boys side, Sacchit Sharma beat Ritwik Chowdhary in the singles final, but teamed up with him to win the doubles.
Truly exciting times for India!
ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals)
This body ranks players, and is responsible for holding ATP tournaments like the Chennai Open. Most of the popular tennis tournaments for men & women seniors are held under it.
ITF (International Tennis Federation)
This body ranks nations. It is also responsible for organizing the Davis Cup, the Fed Cup, and the Hopman Cup, all tournaments where nations compete against each other. It also organizes tournaments for juniors (ITF Juniors) as well as another tournament series for players looking to make the jump from the junior circuit to the senior circuit (ITF Futures); the latter describes itself as ‘the entry level of Professional Tournaments enabling players to eventually reach the higher level tournaments on the ATP World Tour‘.
WTA (Women Tennis Association)
Founded in 1979, this was the start of a landmark movement. When even promoters of tennis tournaments were making more money than the female winners themselves, women players got together to start their own tour. This new tour soon attracted broadcast deals & sponsorships, and the WTA was set. Today, around 54 competitions are to be held under the WTA (jointly or by itself) in the 2018 calendar year.
The only ATP event in India, it has been host to a number of tennis players; Stanislas Wawrinka, Carlos Moya, Marcos Baghdatis, Rafael Nadal (!!!). It is also, curiously, a men’s tournament only. Started in 1996 in Chennai, it remained there till 2017. In 2017, due to disagreements, the venue of the tournament was shifted to Pune, where the tournament will stay for the near future.
One of the things which news dispatches keep repeating is that the tournament is owned by IMG, and the organizer is IMG-Reliance (they are the same people who are responsible for ISL, and for managing domestic Indian football till 2025). It was due to disagreements between IMG Reliance & Tamil Nadu Tennis Association, followed by a new deal with Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association, that the venue was shifted.
The tournament is also part of the ATP World Tour 250 Series; in simple words, the ATP classifies men’s global tournaments, on the basis of their importance (ranking points and/or prize money). Obviously, the Grand Slams are at the top, followed by four tiers of tournaments in the ATP World Tour, the last of which is the ATP World Tour 250 Series. India is also a host to another ATP event though, which brings us to…
Started out in 2014, the Delhi Open (or Delhi ATP Challenger) has been held 3 times since its inception; the 2017 edition was not held. There was also a predecessor (in a way) called the New Delhi Challenger, held from 1999 to 2008.
The tournament is part of the ATP Challenger Tour, which is called the secondary tennis circuit (it has many sub-categories of tournaments within it). In the above mentioned importance scale, the ATP Challenger Tour comes right after (or below) the ATP World Tour 250 Series. But wait!
KPIT MSLTA Challenger
There is another tournament in India, which is part of the ATP Challenger Tour. The competition is held in Pune, by the MSLTA, and has been held since 2014. It is usually held between October to November, and of course as of now, is the only Indian tournament in the ATP Challenger Tour. Previous champions have included Yuki Bhambri (twice), while Prajnesh Gunneswaran & Ramkumar Ramnathan have been finalists.
International Premier Tennis League
This is yet another tournament with an uncertain future. Once though, it looked to be the future of tennis. The tournament was first held in 2014; like its namesake – the IPL – the International Premier Tennis League had a shorter format, cheerleaders and franchises. An added extra was that the matches were played across countries; the venues included stadiums in India, Japan, Singapore, and Manilla. The franchises were the Indian Aces, Japan Warriors, Manilla Mavericks (played only in 2014 & 2015), UAE Royals & Singapore Slammers. The star-studded second edition saw Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal go head-to-head in Delhi, a sight for which Indians from all corners of the country flocked to the capital. Former World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic & former World No. 5 Eugenie Bouchard also played in front of Indian audiences.
The financial sustainability of the league had, however, been questioned by Leander Paes himself in 2014. Though he did go on to play in the 2015 edition, the finances issue has always dogged the tournament, one of which was the question of who was to pay the wages of the players. This culminated in the league organizers announcing there would be no edition of the competition in 2017. There has been no update on the 2018 edition yet, though rumor is that it may be held in just one country instead of continuing the present format. The league’s founder and managing director is Mahesh Bhupathi.
The funny thing is that this is not the first tennis league to be played in India. For 2 years (2014 & 2015), the Champions Tennis League – a brainchild of another former Indian great Vijay Amritraj – was also held in India. 6 city based franchises competed in the league, all the cities being from India. After being unable to conduct the league in 2016 (and also being unable to pay the annual fee of Rs. 30 lakh), AITA terminated its contract with Mr. Amritraj; however, the organisers have expressed hope about being back in 2018. Players such as Kevin Aderson (yes, the one who beat Federer), Garbine Murugaza & Jelena Jankovic were among the ones brought to India by this league.
India’s tennis Nationals have been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. For one, India’s big tennis players do not play in the Nationals, which the AITA is trying to change. Also called the Fenesta Open National Championship, held by the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association in New Delhi itself. It includes both men & women, as well as Under 14, Under 16 & Under 18 for boys & girls. The 2017 Under 18 finals even saw some unexpected upsets. The Sub-Junior levels have their separate tournament, called the Ramesh Desai Memorial Sub-Junior Nationals. This is apparently organised by the MSLTA for Under-16 levels & Under-12 levels, with the tournament in its 12th edition as of May 2018.
There is no lack of emerging talent from India; even as we write this, Ramkumar Ramnathan reached his first-ever ATP semifinals at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, USA. Ankita Raina won her second title of the year, the ITF tournament at Nonthaburi, Thailand. Meanwhile there are also contenders for India’s doubles crown; Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan won his third doubles tournament on the ATP Challenger tour. TOI itself lists 5 female tennis juniors to watch out for. Meanwhile, Saketh Myneni is quietly attempting to get back to his all-time best of Rank 137, and maybe even better it.
It is far from ‘Game, set and match’ for Indian tennis. But if we maintain the level of competition in the tennis tournaments in India, we can get there.