The Asian Circuit of the ATP World Tour has started off with the world's most populous country playing host to two out of the five ATP events that are to be held in Asia. For the first time, Chengdu, in the Sichuan Province is hosting an ATP event for the first time. The Chengdu Open has started from the 26th of September and will be going on till the 2nd of October.
With players like Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov and Felicano Lopez and Kevin Anderson, geared up to play and race to the ATP World Tour Finals in November, this inaugural event is a crucial watch.
On Tuesday, some of the star players went to the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre, located in the city of Chengdu, much known for it's famous pandas. Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, South African Kevin Anderson, Argentinian Diego Schwartzman and the New Zealand-American doubles pairing of Artem Sitak and Nicholas Monroe happened to be lucky and visited the zoo on such a day, when the weather was well suited and the baby pandas could be brought out of their rooms.
The adorable white and black creatures took all the players by surprise and ironically, it was the champion tennis players who were more star-struck by the beady-eyed, fluffy fur-bodied mammals. Dimitrov was particularly overthrown by all the cuteness around him. It isn't often that we come across players getting the opportunity and seizing the time to go to visit zoos or anything like that, given their busy routine.
The panda is as it as a rare animal and it is said that there are about 1500 pandas left in the world with 80% of them scattered over the Sichuan province. A breeding center for giant pandas called Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding was founded in the north suburbs of Chengdu in 1987. It is the only one of its kind in the world that's located in a metropolitan area.
In order to better protect wild giant pandas, Chengdu has established nature reserves in Dujiangyan City, Chongzhou City, and Dayi County. Sichuan Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve, the biggest of its kind in the world, is only 130 km (81 mi) outside Chengdu.
The players were clearly a lucky lot to have visited them on day when all the odds were in their favour and many a funny and cute incident happened during the short visit. Squeezing out some time from their tight schedule, the five star-players turned selfie-takers that day and was clearly, in for a treat of their life.
One of the incidents that took place was when a baby panda was lulled to sleep by the panda-keeper who was cradling him, the little panda awoke with a start and drowsily looked at Dimitrov and stuck out his tongue and without wasting much time and totally dismissive about his star visitors, closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
All this tickled the funny bone in Dimitrov who commented later saying how, "It’s amazing to see all those little ones and some of the big ones (pandas)..it’s pretty rare to do that in the middle of a tournament, but we all enjoyed it a lot.”
With the Chengdu pandas already winning hearts of the star-players, this Sunday will reveal who from the odd lot will finally emerge as winners and clinch the title of the inaugural Chengdu Open. For now, unarguably, the Chengdu Pandas are the clear champions of the heart!