BENGALURU: The Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA)'s decision to host a $100,000 ATP Challenger tournament from 20 to 26 November this year should come as welcome news to Indian tennis players.
The only other ATP Challenger in the country is now the Maharashtra Open, the erstwhile Chennai Open, which was rebranded after IMG (Reliance), owners of the ATP 250 tournament, ended its contract with the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) and signed a deal with the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association.
The last $100,000 Challenger event on Indian soil was held in Delhi in 2015. This shrunk to a $50,000 event in 2016.
KSLTA joint-secretary PR Ramaswamy has been quoted by The Hindu as saying that the commitment is expected to be long-term, and the tournament will be fully funded by the Karnataka government, as a means to exploit its tourism potential.
The country witnessed five Challengers in 2014, which came down to four in 2015 and two in 2016 - Delhi Open and Pune Challenger. This year, not a single Challenger event has been held on Indian soil so far, forcing players to travel overseas to earn points. The AITA had sought funds from the government but the Sports Ministry has insisted that the association find its own resources to organise the tournaments.
Bengaluru last hosted an ATP Challenger event in 2015.