Chennai:For the first time since 1998, the ATP Chennai Open has a "sold out" tag to it well before action gets underway at the well-appointed SDAT Stadium on Monday.
Vijay Amritraj, the country's tennis icon and former ATP president, declared Saturday that all season tickets were picked up. "The tournament is sold out, and that's the best news we have had," he said on the sidelines of the draw ceremony.
In 1998, just two years after the "property" was shifted from New Delhi to Chennai in its new avatar as Gold Flake Open, two Wimbledon champions Boris Becker and Patrick Rafter drew sellout crowds.
The SDAT Stadium, constructed in 1995 for the South Asian Federation Games, boasts of excellent facilities and with Chennai considered as the "spiritual home" of Indian tennis, it was reckoned that the tournament would receive much-needed boost.
Becker, though in virtual retirement in 1998, and Rafter rode on their Wimbledon tag and brought the crowds back to the tournament.
However, the tournament reached its lowest point in terms of popularity in the early years of the new Millennium, especially in 2001 when no seeded player was left in the tournament after the quarterfinal round.
In fact, in 2000 and 2001, the top seed and title favourites, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Magnus Norman, respectively, lost in the very first round to contribute to the dwindling attendance.
The absence of big names further hit the spectator attendance despite the presence of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi until the promoters roped in Spain's pin-up personality Carlos Moya and Thai star Paradorn Srichapan with whom the spectators bonded.
The 2008 edition has seen unprecedented demand for tickets and "passes" and thus, with the cash registers ringing, the sun is yet again shining on the Chennai Open that now enjoys a strong backing from the Tamil Nadu government with a total prize-money of $ 436,000.
The figure surpasses $ 430,000 that the 1996 McDowell Indian Open in New Delhi had offered.