Chennai: Eras aren’t exempt from a sell-by date. But what the world of tennis witnessed in 2014 was extraordinary. The Big Four’s stranglehold on grand slams was so tight ahead of the last season that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had combined to win 34 of the previous 35 major trophies. It was Stanislas Wawrinka who put an end to the domination of the quartet with his stunning triumph in the Australian Open and the Swiss inspired Marin Cilic to clinch the US Open. The contest between Cilic and Kei Nishikori in New York was the first major final in a decade that didn’t feature a member of the Big Four.
As the curtain is ready to go up for the new season, the GenNext would be eager to prove that they are not one-season wonders. In a quest to defend his crown Down Under, Wawrinka is back where it all began. The Swiss started his incredible journey in 2014 by winning the ATP Chennai Open before storming through the field in Melbourne. Wawrinka is now world no.4.
As one of the three season opening Tour events the other two being at Doha and Brisbane the Chennai Open provides ideal training ground to get accustomed to the searing heat of Melbourne. World no. 14 Feliciano Lopez, who along with Wawrinka played the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi before landing in the city on Sunday night, poses the biggest threat to the top-seeded Swiss here. Apart from the Spaniard, the field also has quality players in Croatian Borna Coric (ATP Star of Tomorrow), Roberto Bautisa-Agut (Most Improved Player of the Year), Belgian David Goffin and big serving Dutchman Robin Haase.
Somdev Devvarman and Ramkumar Ramanathan, both wild card entrants, will be carrying local hopes in the singles. Last year, the tournament witnessed a bizarre trend. As many as eight players pulled out citing injuries. While two of them cried off before the event started, five retired midway through their matches here. In a packed calendar, tennis pros hardly get time to recharge their batteries. And, off-season has become a thing of the past.
Wawrinka, who started his season in Abu Dhabi (end of December 2013) was on the road till late November, playing ATP Finals and helping his country win their maiden Davis Cup.
Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasseline, last year’s runner-up, says it’s difficult to pick the favourite for the first tournament of the season.