Tata Open Maharashtra 2022: Players to enter bio-bubble & event behind closed doors, confirms Tournament Director Sutar
Tata Open Maharashtra 2022: Tournament Director Prashant Sutar talks about a range of topics from what it means to have the tournament back in India, the bio-bubble and quarantine protocols put in place to giving an update on the crowd and media attendance.
Tata Open Maharashtra, South Asia’s only ATP Tour-level tournament, is back in 2022 after a hiatus of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ATP 250 event, which will take place between January 30 and February 6 at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune, is still on schedule but is going to be a lot different from its previous editions, according to the tournament officials.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times, tournament director Prashant Sutar talked about a range of topics from what it means to have the event back in India, bio-bubble and quarantine protocols put in place to giving an update on the crowd and media attendance.
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Sutar has been working towards the welfare and development of the sport in the nation for a long time now. And this year, during unprecedented times, he has overcome numerous challenges along with the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) to ensure India’s lone ATP 250 is on track as he believes “the show must go on”.
“The main idea of having this tournament back in India and being firm on this decision is to allow the Indian players and even the Asian players to make the most out of this opportunity. There are a huge number of tournaments taking place across Europe and Asia but India is lacking in that aspect (w.r.t. number of tournaments being held here). Along with us, the players are also excited to play in their own country,” remarked Sutar while talking about the importance of the event.
PLAYERS WILL ENTER A BIO-BUBBLE
“The players are going to arrive in either Mumbai airport or Pune airport. As soon as they land, they are going to enter the bio-bubble. The official cars will take them to their respective hotels, which are in close proximity (about 1 km away) to the stadium. So, they are only going to be shuffling between the stadium and the hotel,” explained Sutar.
As per the Maharashtra government’s protocols, international passengers are required to undergo home quarantine for a week. When asked if the participants have been given any exemption, Sutar said:
“We have not been granted any exemption by the government but rules formed by the central and state governments state that people arriving in India must place themselves in home quarantine for 7 days. But the hotel is going to be their home as the bubble will be considered as their home.”
NO CROWD BUT MEDIA ALLOWED
The organizers were earlier mulling over having 500 vaccinated spectators everyday. Now, and by Sutar’s own admission, it’s certain that the tournament will be held without any crowd. However, unlike numerous closed-doors tournaments around the world, journalists will be permitted to cover the tournament from the venue.
“The journalists will have a separate entrance to the stadium and they will not be in the vicinity of the players. A different area will be allocated to them for entrance and hospitality. No mixed zones will take place due to the bio-bubbles. The government of Maharashtra has allowed us to conduct this tournament so we must respect their guidelines and make sure we become role models for tournaments in the future,” elaborated Sutar.
“BALL MEN” AND MORE SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
Everyone involved in the tournament, from players, organizers to ground staff and support staff, will be a part of the bio-bubble. Taking into consideration the fact that Maharastra is racking up most coronavirus cases daily, Sutar is not going to take any chances.
“This time, there won’t be any ball kids. We will have ball men, you can call them “ball men”, who will be vaccinated. We have two hotels for bio-bubbles. Everyone involved will be a part of the bubble” disclosed Sutar.
While talking about fan engagement, he quipped:
“It is unfortunate that we are having the tournament behind closed doors because people from Pune and the rest of the state look forward to this event each year."
"We are now focusing more on social media awareness and our aim is to spread awareness throughout the city and the country through various means. But there won’t be any fan parks, shops, and restaurants."
The singles player field boasts of numerous stars. Russia's Aslan Karatsev, who beat Andy Murray to lift the Sydney International title on Sunday, will be sharing the court with India's Yuki Bhambri, along with the defending champion Jiri Vesely, Italian Lorenzo Musetti, and upcoming star Emil Ruusuvuori.