With Thomas Enqvist and Mark Petchey's first tennis match, the seeds of India's first and only Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour tennis stop were sown in 1996 with the Chennai Open.
Twenty years down, the tournament has grown into a marquee ATP tennis event in South Asia, giving birth to many a tennis champion, attracting some of the finest names in the world tennis circuit, and spawning a multitude of fans across the nation.
The 2015 edition of the Aircel Chennai Open will mark 20 years since the very first game was played in India and the organisers are all set to celebrate the occasion with a host of activities in Chennai. The event is scheduled to be held at Chennai's SDAT Stadium from Jan 5-11.
The celebration includes the launch of a special logo created to mark the occasion, a renovated SDAT Stadium that has hosted the event proudly since 1997 after it shifted from New Delhi, and a host of special activities targeted at fans and tennis enthusiasts including schoolchildren and the youth, apart from exciting marketing initiatives across India.
As a tournament that has been India's only ATP World Tour stop for two decades, the tournament has had a long and exhilarating journey in India.
The ATP World Tour 250 event has built a strong legacy for being a 'Springboard of Champions', with former winners including Grand Slam champions Pat Rafter and Carlos Moya. Apart from Rafter and Moya, players to have graced the courts in the past include Rafael Nadal, Boris Becker, Richard Krajicek, Yvgeny Kafelnikov, Byron Black and India's own Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. The tournament continues to attract some of the best-known and emerging players from the world of tennis.
"As we celebrate two decades of the tournament in the country, it gives us an opportunity to not just celebrate the occasion but look back with pride at our achievements and renew our focus to take the tournament to greater heights in the seasons to come. I congratulate everyone involved and thank India's tennis community for its support," said M.A. Alagappan, president of Tamil Nadu Tennis Association.
Tom Annear, tournament director, Chennai Open the tournament has become the longest running annual tennis event in South Asia.
"I am glad that we are completing the 20th year in 2015. As we endeavour to set new benchmarks with each edition, this milestone gives us reason to celebrate our achievements and congratulate each stakeholder for the fantastic efforts over the years. It has been our aim to place India into the top league of tennis playing nations in the world and I am glad that we are getting closer to that with each passing year," he said.