Tuesday, February 13, 2007


He seems every bit a star tennis player himself, dressed in a natty T shirt. This is his fifth visit to the Chennai Open and he hasn’t yet hit a ball on the court. But he is as important to the Chennai Open as the Nadals, the Moyas and the Nalbandians. He is Fernando Soler, the Tournament Director of the Chennai Open.

Residing in Barcelona, having a loving Indian wife, Fernando comes across as much a lover of Chennai as most of us. He has visited Mahabalipuram, Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane and many other places whose names he finds difficult to remember, but whose images he holds forever in his mind.

“As a Tournament Director, it is my duty to take care of all aspects of the conduct of the Tournament. The support of the Government of Tamil Nadu and the excellent organizing team means the Chennai Open is a winner all the time”, he says. It is all the more important this year, as international sponsors are here, and the international TV coverage goes out to more than 140 countries, many of them live. “It is also my responsibility to get the best players to the Chennai Open, and I am happy to say that this year has the strongest field in the history of Chennai Open”, he informs.

If players like Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moya and the like make it a point to skip the Adelaide or the Doha Open in favour of the Chennai Open, Fernando Soler has had a major role in their decisions.

“Chennai is a city that amazes me. Every year here I see many changes in the skyline, and the middle class seems to be growing all the time”, he gushes. Words that seem to come from the heart. Also from his heart is his appreciation for the Chennai fans. “They seem to know their tennis well, and the players better”, he declares. True words, as Carlos Moya seems to be an eternal favourite of the Chennai tennis fan.

“The absence of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi is unfortunate for the fans, though so far, this hasn’t affected the ticket sales”, he informs. According to Fernando Soler, all tickets for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday – usually the biggest days in a one week tournament are sold out, and more than percent of tickets for other days are sold. He has also seen difficult times at the Chennai open – more testing times than the withdrawal of a star or two. “Two years ago, close on the heels of the Tsunami was the saddest tournament of my life so far. The way the players, IMG, the sponsors and everybody else pitched in was to be seen to be believed”, he says nostalgically.

As the tournament ends on Sunday, no man would be more relieved than Fernando Soler, and he still will not be able to rest. He has 10 more tournaments across the world that IMG is conducting for the ATP to do – though in different capacities. He would, though, while it lasts at the Chennai Open, love to tuck into Tandoori food, his favourite.


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