Thirty one years after the last Davis Cup tie was played in Chennai, the international team tennis competition returns to the city on September 17. That means a whole new generation of tennis lovers will get to experience the magic of the Davis Cup — rooting for your country, for your national team, as they battle it out over three days and five matches.
“Deep in their heart, people are patriotic, and they want the home team to win,” says tennis ace and Davis Cup veteran Ramanathan Krishnan.
This tie between India and Brazil is special for Chennai in more ways than one. Not only will it feature home-town favourite Somdev Devvarman, the current Indian No. 1, but also the multiple Grand Slam-winning doubles combination of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi — the ‘Indian Express' as they were known —playing together again for their country.
“This could be the last time we get to see the Paes-Bhupathi duo playing together in Chennai,” says C.B.N. Reddy, honorary secretary of the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA).
Devvarman, who grew up in Chennai and reached the final of the 2009 Chennai Open, is the reason why the tournament has returned to the city after all these years.
“Over the last three decades, grass has been the preferred surface for the Indian team, so Chennai hasn't hosted a tie,” says Karti P. Chidambaram, chairman of the Davis Cup organising committee and vice president of the All India Tennis Association. “But now, we have a No. 1 player who wants to play on hard court, and more importantly, wants to play in Chennai.”
The matches have been scheduled for an 11.30 a.m. start at the SDAT Tennis Stadium, Nungambakkam. This will give the Indians, who're used to Chennai's blazing heat, an advantage over the visiting Brazilians. But not to worry — the spectators' comfort has been taken care of, say the organisers. “We're putting up temporary roofing over about 2,500 seats at centre court, and tickets will be issued only for these covered parts,” says Karti.
“This means our capacity will be reduced, but people will be able to watch comfortably,” adds Reddy.
There will also be a food court with plenty of snacks, soft drinks, water and more on the eastern side of the stadium. This is all a far cry from the olden days, when temporary wooden stands — and temporary clay courts! — had to be constructed at Island Grounds or at the Madras Cricket Club when Chennai hosted a Davis Cup tie (the last one was against the Australians in 1979 at the Gymkhana).
However, the spirit of the event remains unchanged. “I met all the players in New York last week, and they're pumped about the tie,” says Karti. “Individual rankings, match-ups… none of these matter. The Davis Cup is all about heart.”
Memories of Davis Cups: Ramanathan Krishnan
This is the third time India and Brazil are playing each other in the Davis Cup — the first was in Calcutta, in December 1966, and was one of India's proudest Davis Cup moments, with Ramanathan Krishnan playing a starring role. He recalls: “My deciding match against Tomas Koch was thrilling. There was a lot of interest on both sides, because the winning team would play Australia in the Davis Cup final, and neither India nor Brazil had ever been in the finals before. At one point, Tomas was in the commanding position — he lead me 5-2, 30-0 in the fourth set, and then again 5-3, 30-15, both penultimate tie-points.
Nearly 3,000 people left the stands then, because they didn't want to see India lose. Then, I began to win game after game, and raced to a 4-0 lead in the fifth set. People left their offices and came right back; only, instead of 3,000, more than 4,000 returned. The organisers took an instant decision and let them all in, and they all cheered me on.
I won 6-2 in the fifth. When I returned to Chennai, there was a spontaneous reception for me at the airport, and then I was taken from one reception to another… I didn't even get to go home!
In the 1990s, India played Brazil in Brazil, and we lost 4-1. Now, the tie is back in India again, and I'm sure there'll be some exciting matches. I'll certainly be there, rooting for the Indian team.”
Season tickets, priced at Rs. 2,000 and Rs.1,000, will be available from September 10 at the SDAT Stadium.
Based on availability, daily tickets, priced at Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500, will be sold from September 15 at the stadium.
Divya Kumar - Source: The Hindu