Rewind: Over the Years
With the 19th edition of the Chennai Open set to begin on 29th December (Qualifying only), let us take a brief look back at the tournament over the years ever since it’s Inception in 1996 as the India Open in New Delhi.
From April 8 to 14, 1996, India had its premier tennis tournament (250 series). One of the most impressive Swedish tennis players after Bjorg and Edberg- Thomas Enqvist won the first India Open in 1996 by defeating famous Zimbabwean doubles specialist Bryon Black in the final. It was Enqvist’s 8th title of his career, and which he went on to reach as high as no. 4 in the world in 1999, when he reached the Final of the Australian Open. Black went on to lose the Doubles final too, losing to the great Bjorkman and partner Kulti.
The tournament shifted to Chennai under new sponsors Gold Flake- named the 1997 Gold Flake Open. It got its first Indian winners in the form of Paes and Bhupathi for Doubles- a memorable victory for the legendary pair- while little known Swedish player Mikael Tilstrom won his only Singles title of his entire career by defeating Alex Radulescu in the Final.
The 1998 Gold Flake Open was more of a popular affair- with Aussie legend Pat Rafter defeating defending Champion Tilstrom in the final. It was only Rafter’s 8th singles title of his career- this was in the midst of his US Open winning streak (1997 and 1998). Once again, Paes and Bhupathi won the Doubles- their 9th together already.
Bryon Black was the Singles winner, after being the defeated finalist in the first edition in 1996. He defeated German Rainer Schuttler in 3 tight sets in the final to win his first of only two singles titles in his career. Paes and Bhupathi meanwhile completed a hat trick of doubles titles at the Gold Flake Open- winning the final in 3 sets against Wayne Black (brother of Bryon) and his partner- 1999 was to be their best year and one of the greatest in doubles history where they’d reach all four Slam Finals, winning two of them.
The 5th edition of the tournament became the first of the year, shifted to January 3rd. Left-handed French player Jerome Golmard won his first of only two singles titles in his career here by defeating German Markus Hantschk in the final.
The 2001 Gold Flake Open had the Black Brothers winning their first doubles title here, while Czech player Michal Tabara won the only singles title of his entire career by defeating Russian Andrei Stoliarov in the final.
The 2002 Chennai Open became the Tata Open, with more popular players joining the tournament. Argentinian Clay legend Guillermo Canas defeated much-loved Asian no. 1 Paradorn Srichaphan in the final, much before his controversial suspension due to doping in 2005. The Indian legendary duo Paes and Bhupathi won their 4th title here this year.
Losing finalist of 2002 and crowd favorite Srichaphan won the 3rd title of his career by destroying Karol Kucera in the final. He won only 2 more singles titles in his career after this, but reached a world high of no. 9 in Singles this year.
The 2004 Chennai Open was a high voltage affair, with Spanish legend Carlos Moya defeating Srichaphan in the final. It was the Thai player’s 3rd consecutive final appearance. Many will remember a nail-biting third set in which Moya snatched a tie-breaker (7-5) to win his 14th of a studded career. Not many will remember that it was a little-known teenager from Spain’s first brush with fame- Rafael Nadal partnered Robredo to defeat the upcoming legends Ulrich and Ram in 3 tight sets.
In a repeat of the 2004 final, once again it was Moya who got the better of Srichaphan in a similar manner by winning a nail-biter third set tiebreak 7-5. It was Moya’s 18th of his career, while Bhupathi and his partner Bjorkman were defeated by Schuttler and Lu in the doubles final.
Moya reached his third consecutive final, only to be defeated by popular upcoming no. 1 seeded Croatian Ivan Ljubicic in the final. By May 2006, Ljubicic reached his career high ranking of no. 3. The rookie Indian pair of Prakash Amritraj and Bopanna were defeated in the doubles final.
It was the Malisse double this year, with the Belgian defeating Kubek in the Singles final after defeating young Nadal in the semis. He combined with Dick Norman to defeat Nadal and Salva-Vidal in the doubles final too.
World no. 2 Rafael Nadal began his year here by winning an epic 3 hour 54 minute semi final against his 31 year old idol Moya in 3 tie break sets. This took much out of the Spaniard and he was demolished 6-0 6-1 by Russian Youzhny in an anti-climax of a final. Nadal was to go on and do the French-Wimbledon double and become world no. 1 for the first time by July after defeating Roger Federer in the greatest match ever played in the Wimbledon Final.
Marin Cilic crushed a billion Indian hearts by defeating surprise finalist Somdev Devvarman to win only his 2nd singles title of an inconsistent career.
Cilic did the double by defeating Swiss no. 2 Wawrinka in the final, after players like Soderling, Tipsarevic and Sela fell early in the tournament.
Wawrinka reached his second consecutive final and defeated ex-Champion and no. 7 seed Malisse in a hard fought final. Paes and Bhupathi were back together briefly to win Indian hearts and win their 4th Chennai Open title together.
After Cilic was ruled out, No. 31 ranked Canadian Milos Raonic defeated first seed Serb Tipsarevic in the final in 3 tie break sets. Tipsarevic combined with Paes to win the doubles title.
Tipsarevic defeated giant killer and surprise finalist Bautista-Agut in the final, finally winning the singles title here after no. 1 seed Berdych and no. 4 seed Wawrinka fell in the semis. Wawrinka went on to compete in his most successful year of his career, making the World Tour Finals at no. 8 by the end of the year. Wawrinka won the doubles title with Paire here, to begin his assault on the Australian Open.