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India calling top tennis stars


Himanshu Singhal,CNN-IBN
Aug 28, 2006 at 08:01pm IST

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Mumbai: The US Open begins on Monday in New York but for tennis fans in India it will be just the beginning of an exciting season of tennis.

Players like Tommy Robredo, Mario Ancic and Radek Stepanek, some of ATP's brightest stars, will be in Mumbai in September to take part in the city's inaugural ATP tour event.

Clearly, India has started attracting more and more international tennis superstars to its courts.

Some of the best players to have graced the tennis court including Boris Becker, Patrik Rafter, Thomas Yohannson, Guillermo Canas, Paradorn Srichapan, Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moya, Magnus Norman, Ivan Ljubicic and Rainer Schuttler have all not only been in India but have also won Indian hearts.

"At the end of the year people want to gather more points so that their ranking goes higher. So when you have a tournament in the month of September, October or November there are players ranked 17 or 18 who try to win some tournaments and get into the top 10. If they get into top 10 then their are a lot of bonuses," former Indian Davis Cupper Jaideep Mukherjea says.

"It depends on what kind of appearance money the tournament is paying, It all depends on the appearance money. Large amount of appearance money attracts top players," coach of the Davis Cup team Enrico Piperno says.

In September Martina Hingis will be in action for the first time on Indian soil when she takes part in the Sunfeast Open in Kolkata.

In the past, top female pros like Anastysia Myskina, Martina Navratilova and Michella Krajicek have also played in India and drawn crowds as well.

"Once we have a tournament of the ATP stature or prize money is good, the players will automatically come. But you have to still get the marquee players who will draw the crowds. If you go to a sponsor then the first question they will ask is who all are playing," Jaideep says.

There is still hope of one day watching the best in the business like Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, etc.

And with more and more brands giving support to such tournaments, Indian tennis fans can look forward to a real bonanza in the years ahead.

(With inputs from Sougata Mukhopadhyay in Kolkata)

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