Sports
The only ATP tournament in India has been a fixture on Chennai's calendar for 21 years.
Stalin/PTI photo (L); Chennai Open/Twitter (R)

Slamming the decision to shift Chennai Open to Pune, Tamil Nadu Leader of Opposition MK Stalin reacted strongly on Thursday.

The Chennai Open, the only ATP tournament to be held in India, is being  moved to Pune and will now be called Maharashtra Open.

IMG-Reliance, the rights holders of the tournament along with Government of Maharashtra and Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA), announced  this on Wednesday, and revealed that Pune will be the new city to host the 2018 edition.

“It is indeed shocking to know that the venue of ATP Tennis Tournament in South Asia 'Chennai Open' has now been shifted to Pune. This premier event was hosted by the city of Chennai in Nungambakkam SDAT Stadium for past 21 years and the exemplary conduct of this event brought laurels to the City not only by patrons and tennis fans in Chennai but also across the globe,” Stalin said in a statement.

“Given the importance of the event, significant monetary contributions has been the made by the State Government,” he added.

Calling the decision unfair, Stalin said, “Given the long association of this event with the city, now a question has risen whether this event would be conducted in Chennai, the coming year. It is an unfair step by IMG to break this long standing association, thereby disappointing countless fans as well as tennis players of Tamil Nadu.”

Stalin also  slammed the Tamil Nadu government for not taking the issue up.

“With IMG stating that it is commercial interests which led to the shifting of the venue, the silence and inaction of Tamil Nadu Government in this issue is condemnable. Hence, I request Hon'ble Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy to take immediate actions to ensure that the association of the City of Chennai with the ATP Tennis Open stays alive,” Stalin said.

The reason behind the move, according to a Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) official, was that the TNTA could no longer meet the commercial demands of IMG-Reliance. Speaking to PTI, the official asserted that the shift was not a setback. "We are premier state association and will remain." the official said.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra celebrated the move to shift the tournament to Pune.

"We welcome the world class ATP tournament to our state," Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in a statement.

"We are happy to host the Maharashtra Open and sure that we will take it to newer heights by bringing in an elite field every year."

The Chennai Open became an important fixture on India's international sporting calendar, drawing top players from across the world for 21 years.

Many of them, including Spanish star Rafael Nadal who has often spoken about its importance in his journey to World No.1, had made it their first stop every year.

India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had also forged their formidable partnership at the Chennai Open. Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic, among the more notable players, also took baby steps in this tournament city before going on to break into ATP's elite Top 5 list.

(With IANS inputs)