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History Of Tennis In Tamil Nadu

Talk about Indian tennis anywhere in the world and connoisseurs immediately think of Chennai. Tamil Nadu has produced many World Class tennis players – Krishnans and Amritrajs – and hosts the only ATP tennis tournament held in South Asia.

After the very first Wimbledon Championships in 1877, tennis caught the fancy of many people across the world. The British colonies, especially, were fascinated with the sport and the first tennis courts appeared in Chennai barely six years after the first Championships. As early as 1883, four tennis courts were laid in Madras Cricket Club (MCC).

In January of 1887, a significant incident occurred in the history of tennis in South India – MCC took the initiative and organized the first Lawn Tennis tournament in South India. Two interesting features occurred at this tournament. It had an event for the ladies (only three years earlier in 1884, the first Ladies’ Singles event had taken place at the Wimbledon) and the prizes awarded to players were all in cash.

Tamil Nadu Tennis Association

With the growing popularity and appeal of Tennis, associations were being messaged all over the world for the orderly development of the game. In the year 1920, at Lahore, the All India Tennis Association came into being. Six years later, in 1926, the Madras Provincial Lawn Tennis Association was inaugurated, with Hon. Justice E.E. Mack as its first President.

The Madras Cricket Club, Madras United Club, and the South Indian Athletic Association were the first amongst the clubs to get affiliated to the Association. The other prominent clubs that played a key role in the development of tennis were Madras Gymkhana Club, Mylapore Club, Cosmopolitan Club, and Clubs in Ooty, Trichy, Madurai and Coimbatore. These Clubs, apart from providing tennis facilities to their members, regularly conducted tournaments that attracted large enthusiastic crowds.

In the 1940’s, The Madras Corporation made available public courts in the celebrated Egmore Stadium, where all-important tournaments were conducted and regular coaching was also imparted to young players. Madras, as Chennai was then known, played a key role at the National level by staging Davis cup ties in 1956, 1962, 1973, 1979 and 2010, national level tournaments such as National Hard Court Championships and National Junior Championships on annual basis and ITF Futures and Challenger events. Several international players participated in these tournaments, amongst who were many Wimbledon Champions such as Frank Sedgeman, Jaroslav Drobny, John Newcombe, Neale Fraser, Roy Emerson, Alex Olmedo, and Tony Trabert. In the 1930s, all-time greats like Bill Tilden and Henri Cochet played exhibition matches in Chennai.

Apart from international players, our own Ramanathan Krishnan, twice semifinalist in Men’s Singles at Wimbledon in 1960 and 1961 and who spearheaded India into its first Davis Cup final in 1966, then called the Challenge Round and other top Indian Players of the time regularly participated in Tournaments in Tamil Nadu till 1968, when era of Tennis being known as an amateur sport ended and era of Professional Tennis as we know now began.

In the seventies it was era of the Amritraj’s, Vijay and Anand, followed by Ramesh Krishnan. Vijay , twice quarter-finalist at Wimbledon 1974 and 1981 and US Open in 1973 and 1974, and Anand, a doubles semifinalist at Wimbledon in 1976 took India into its second Davis Cup final in 1974. Again in 1987, both the Amritraj brothers along with Ramesh Krishnan, once quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 1986 and twice at US Open in 1981 and 1987 and another outstanding player from Tamil Nadu S.Vasudevan took india into its third Davis Cup final.

Over a period of time, TNTA’s activities have included:

  • Running Tennis Coaching Schools.
  • Conducting and administering tournaments at Regional, National and International levels.
  • Presenting Annual Awards at its Annual Day function.
  • Coordinating with All India Tennis Association (AITA), Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) and other bodies.
  • Conducting coaching camps for State level players.
  • Conducting free coaching for Corporation School Children in association with SDAT.
  • Conducting clinics and examinations for umpires and officials.

The Government of Tamil Nadu constructed a world-class tennis stadium for the conduct of the South Asian Federation (SAF) games in 1995. This stadium is now called the SDAT Tennis Stadium and is located at Lake Area in Nungambakkam, Chennai.

Impressed by the international facilities at the stadium the organizers, International Marketing Group (IMG) moved South Asia’s only ATP event to Chennai in 1997. This made it possible for the Chennai tennis loving crowd to witness in action international greats like Boris Becker, Patrick Rafter, Richard Krajicek, the “Woodies”, Carlos Moya, Rafael Nadal, Ivan Lubjicic, Stanislaus Wawrinka, Marin Cilic and Daniil Medvedev.

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Tamil Nadu Tennis Association,
c/o SDAT Tennis Stadium, Lake Area,
Nungambakkam, Chennai -600034
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