Here, the devil doesn’t wear Prada. Just Adidas, Nike and attitude. Here, the devil’s job is not to harass the assistant, just the guy on the other side of the net.
Welcome to ATP Tour tennis, which makes its debut in Mumbai with the $380,000 Kingfisher Open. The tournament starts on the hard courts of the Cricket Club of India on Monday and will reach a hopefully explosive conclusion on Sunday.
The venue is dressed for the date. Large, arresting photographs of the main attractions - like Tommy Robredo, the top seed, and Mario Ancic, the No. 2 - line the concourse on the way to the courts.
Workers have erected stands with a seating capacity of 3,500 around the main arena. White chairs have been neatly arranged on a soft, suede-like fabric of rich green hue stretched and pinned over the steps. Robredo, Ancic and Carlos Moya, that long-time friend of India, are the biggest names in the fray, with the former two expected to reach the final.
Argentina’s Juan Monaco, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Saturday and is seeded seventh, is spoken of as a future chart-topper and will be worth watching. The third seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, who defeated Roger Federer at the Athens Olympics, could be dangerous too.
But the tournament’s most compelling story, at this stage at least, is the first round between the strapping Dmitry Tursunov of Russia and the still growing, pimply-faced Akash Wagh of India.
The mismatch is not just physical. On Sunday, Tursunov scripted a staggering victory over Andy Roddick of the US in Moscow to carry Russia to the Davis Cup final. On the other end of the line is Pune’s Wagh.
He has hardly played men’s tennis. That could work as an advantage, though, because experience is sometimes negative baggage.
Wagh won’t beat Tursunov, who is seeded four here. But he could use the opportunity to have a good time while he is at it, and in the process surprise his opponent.
The other Indians in the main draw are Karan Rastogi, the 20-year-old from Mumbai, and Rohan Bopanna, who, after several disappointing Davis Cup chapters, breathed verve into his career by taking Federer to a tie-breaker in Halle.
Rastogi is up against sixth seed Bjorn Phau of Germany. They have played before in Netherlands when Phau won 8-4, 6-2.
Sanam, Aditya, Mustafa lose
The Indian challenge in the qualifiers ended with Sanam Singh, Aditya Madkekar and Mustafa Ghouse losing tamely, thus not making to the main draw. Sanam lost to Japan’s Gouichi Motomura 16-7, 2-6, Aditya lost to James Auckland of UK 2-6, 4-6, while Frank Moser of Germany beat Mustafa 7-6 (3), 7-6 (9).