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Aircel Chennai Open 2016: Five things we learned from this year's tournament

Borna Coric Aircel Chennai Open 2016

19-year-old Coric has the world at his feet

The 20th edition of the Aircel Chennai Open concluded on Sunday evening beaming across images similar to those of last year and the year before. Stan Wawrinka stood beaming, trophy in hand, having successfully completed a hat-trick of titles at the event.He has four overall and is the most successful singles champion at this event.It was a fourth different final opponent though for the Swiss, this time 19-year-old Croat Borna Coric the latest to try an attempt to dethrone Wawrinka.Seven days and over 15 matches later, some thoughts on this year’s edition.

#1 A bright future for Borna Coric

Borna Coric Aircel Chennai Open 2016

19-year-old Coric has the world at his feet

At just 19 years of age, Borna Coric is the youngest player in the current Top 100 in the ATP rankings. Breaking into the top 100 by the end 2014 after rising 276 places the previous year, Coric was presented with the ATP Star of Tomorrow award and in 2015 made further progress, breaking into the Top 50 to finish the year ranked 44.

He was the most successful teenager on tour last year in terms of match wins. On the back of his run to the final this year, his ranking has jumped four more places, to be 40 in the latest rankings released today.

Improvements in Coric’s game came not just with where he got to, but also in his game. At this same event last year, he was no match for Wawrinka in the second round. And yesterday, he was able to trouble the Swiss somewhat, despite eventually ending up on the losing end.

His athleticism is amazing; in the quarters and semis, he played some outstanding points against Roberto Bautista-Agut and Aljaz Bedene respectively, that were borne out of pure physical prowess and on-court quickness.

There were so many points that you thought he wouldn’t get to, yet he did. Coric’s forehand is now bigger and is able to move opponents out of position more effectively. Realizing the importance of putting points away when dominating, he’s also come to the net much more this year.

Coric 2016 is definitely an improvement on Coric 2015 and with the consistent upward trend he’s showing, there is no doubt he could very well achieve the success he has been marked out for.

#2 Ramkumar rises as Somdev fades

Somdev Devvarman Chennai Open 2016

Devvarman crashed out to the tournament’s youngest – Andrey Rublev

The youngest person in the draw (yes, there was somebody younger than Coric), Andrey Rublev, defeated India’s Somdev Devvarman in the first round. That loss marked the third year in a row that Devvarman has lost in the first round here. His star has begun to fade in the last couple of years and while still a solid player in the Davis Cup, he has slipped as a singles player on tour.

As his star has faded, Ramanathan Ramkumar’s has emerged. He inflicted the first of three losses on Devvarman in 2013, and had a breakout tournament this year.

Pumping up the local crowd and with them in his sails, Ramanathan displayed a brand of tennis that was aggressive yet thoughtful. His serve has improved markedly, helping him construct points well. His backhand still needs work – it is the primary reason why he runs around it to take the forehand so much more.

But above all, the man has heart. And well-nurtured, his skill and spirit could help him join Yuki Bhambri in the Top 100. For now, though, what’s important, is that he has a solid showing from which to learn.

#3 Wawrinka - the king of Chennai

Stan Wawrinka Aircel Chennai Open 2016 champion

The World No. 4 won his fourth Chennai Open title this year

Novak Djokovic went to Doha. So did Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer. Roger Federer went to Brisbane and Kei Nishikori did too. Andy Murray, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga didn’t go anywhere. Stan Wawrinka was the lone Top 10 player to come to Chennai.

He returned for the eigth season in a row and has now won the title on four occasions, a good 50% success rate. He is also the most succesful singles player in Chennai.

Wawrinka has the tournament at his feet, the crowds adore him, and life is good for the Swiss everytime he comes here. He said he was happy with the level at which he played this whole week – and the results made that abundantly clear.

South Africa’s Kevin Anderson pulling out was a big blow, as a clash between the two would have been a good show for the fans.

They have a 4-4 head-to-head with Anderson winning four of the last five.

The question would then be – does he come back next year? The event will stay in Chennai and return next year, but it should have its king, too.

#4 Empty seats

Stan Wawrinka Aircel Chennai Open 2016 empty

Despite the caliber of players, the stands are not as filled as they could be

Friday, Saturday and Sunday saw good crowds turn up and fill the stands yet the tournament wore a barren look in the early days.

This has been a documented problem in previous editions too, but one felt that the turnout was lesser this year. Whether it had anything to do with the recent rain-induced-floods the city experienced just about a month ago is something nobody knows, but despite good numbers on the last few days, it still wasn’t as crowded as it could have been.

Something for the organizers to consider going forward, if the event is indeed to push on from here – especially considering the great sport and the talent the court sees year after year.

#5 Chennai - the launchpad of champions

Aljaz Bedene 2016 Chennai Open

Last year’s finalist Aljaz Bedene has shown promise

With the exception of a few, most winners and finalists at the Aircel Chennai Open have gone on to do fairly well in their career overall.

In the last few years alone, Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, Roberto Bautista-Agut and Aljaz Bedene have been success stories who found their feet in Chennai.

Borna Coric adds his name to the list this year. Will we see that trend continuing? What about Ramkumar Ramanathan? Will we see his name more in the latter stages of ATP events in future?

The two are definitely here to stay.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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