Maharashtra Open dropped from early 2021 ATP calendar, may return later

India's only ATP 250 event has been sacrificed to ensure Australian Open goes ahead smoothly from February 8.

By Naveen Peter ·

Unlike in the past, the 2021 ATP season will not include the Maharashtra Open - India’s only ATP 250 event - in its initial swing of events in January and February.

Releasing the updated schedule for the first seven weeks of the new season, ATP said that it was unable to accommodate the India event in its early window. This is because the Australian Open will need time for the participating players and support staff to travel and complete quarantine procedures.

The season-opening Grand Slam will begin in Melbourne from February 8, three weeks later than it’s usual period.

Sundar Iyer, the secretary of the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA), said that the organisers are keen on hosting the Maharashtra Open in the winter window but it will depend on the COVID-19 pandemic situation then.

“It’s an option that the ATP has given us. But it’s not just the ATP who’s involved,” Sundar Iyer told the Olympic Channel.

“We need to look at how severe the pandemic is in Pune, the local authorities have to give a go-ahead. The talks are on, but I believe it’s too early to say anything now.”

Along with the Maharashtra Open, the ASB Classic (Auckland) and the New York Open are the other ATP 250 events that have been called off.

India first hosted the ATP 250 Maharashtra Open in 1996 and it has been a constant fixture in the Indian sporting calendar ever since.

While the inaugural edition was held in New Delhi, the following year saw the tournament being shifted to Chennai. It was only in 2018, that the competition was moved to Pune.

Usually held before the Australian Open, the ATP 250 event worked as a pitstop for tennis superstars like Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moya, Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.

Indian success at the event has been restricted to doubles alone with Somdev Devveram being the only singles player to come close to a title win with a final appearance in the 2009 edition.

The legendary Indian doubles pairing of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes have been the most successful pair at the ATP 250 event with In the doubles five titles to their name, including a hat-trick in 1997, 1998, and 1999.

Meanwhile, Iyer confirmed that the ATP Challenger event in Pune will be held in the latter half of the season.

“We missed out of having the ATP Challenger last year. But it will be back this time,” Iyer said. “We have been having the Challenger event since the last six years and that’s something we are keen to continue with.”