Life has this unique wont of sliding up opportunities your way. Maybe for that precise reason I was deliberately thrown onto the blazing chessboard of Chennai. To witness an ATP Tennis tournament. Whaaatttt?

Yes it happened. Strangely I had never thought about that before. Being in Chennai had its perks and I made the most of it. When I realized the tournament occurred every year, specifically when the year is succumbing to its final breaths, I just knew I had to witness an ATP match.

When I looked up to the Singles draw, I wasn’t at all disappointed as the name of Stanislas Wawrinka dangled up there. Top seeded Wawrinka had bagged one Chennai Open title before. Even though big names like Youzhny and Fognini were in the tournament, I was still counting on the Swiss to win the tournament, owing to his extremely impeccable form that year.

We decided to watch the final, even though we waited impatiently for the big day to come. Wawrinka slid smoothly into the finals. In the other draw, Edouard Roger-Vasselin made the cut. Their clash was inevitable.

Like first time of everything, my first World Class Tennis match too had thrill written all over it. We came early and grabbed our seats pronto. We had arranged front seats in order to stay as close as humanely possible to where the action took place. Even though the seats weren’t comfy, we were too charged to notice. Witnessing the court for the first time, gave me Goosebumps. It was glittering flawless. I was so excited. The atmosphere was sheer breathtaking. The climate was surprisingly cool. Clouds were bountiful as they overshadowed the punishing sun during its final hours.

My heart pounded faster as my eyes riveted itself to the entrance. Lo! They trickled down to the court, both remarkable players, Stan and Roger. We were on our feet clapping and cheering for the finalists. Within few hours, we would be doing the same for a champ. As Stan stretched and Vasselin fiddled with his racquet, the coin toss happened. Vasselin took to serve and the game commenced.

I hadn’t seen any sports player up this close. With Vasselin owning the first game, we saw Wawrinka heading to our side with 4-5 balls in his hand. He was mesmerizing. I had heard so much about his single-handed backhand and boy it was all true. When he smashed the ball single handedly down the court, time stood still. It was just so perfect. The noise that it made – utter screams of the ball gushing down the opponent’s court, boy it was music to my ears. Even though he fumbled with the game, he managed to grasp hold of it. The rest of the games that followed swayed through pizzazz. Both were equally good in the first set, until the time Stan broke Vasselin. He went on to bag the first set 7-5.

Vasselin’s game was really promising. With powerful smashes, volleys and excellent returns Roger made sure he earned rapt and apt attention. But Wawrinka was simply absorbing. With screams of “C’mon Stan” I made sure, his adrenaline was buffed up. So made sure a child’s voice that rang up the SDAT stadium every time the game paused. The second set turned out to be cake for Stan. He grabbed the championship point pretty soon by taking up a quick 5-2 lead. With a thunderous ace, he called the trophy his. He bagged the title in straights. Happens to be his second Chennai Open title.

We were all up on our feet, cheering and hooting for our winner. Whilst the arrangements for presentation ceremony began, we saw Charu Sharma primping what was left of his hair, at the podium. Someone next to me shouted, “Sharmaji!” Charu at once turned towards us. The guy said, “Looking good!” Charu nodded acknowledging the compliment as he prepared himself for the presentation. Right after Wawrinka lifted the trophy and the presentation bit ended, I shouted at the top of my voice, beckoning Stan to our side, for autograph. I was the loudest. I screamed out loud, then later yelped. “Stan! Stan!” But he didn’t budge. Probably because of the commotion in the back of his head, he was compelled to turn around once. He waved and went on to sign autographs for the lucky ones near the entrance, while everyone clogged him with placards and papers. Whilst he succumbed to the crowd, all we were left with a sour taste and that disappointed look on our faces.

The next match was doubles. Croatians Dragnja and Pavic were up against Brunstrom and Nielsen. We sat through the clash as well. The energy of the match was breathtaking. It was so quick and agile that it got over within a blink of an eye, so to speak. Brunstrom and Nielsen lifted the trophy by defeating the Croatian force 6-2, 4-6 (10-7).

When we were about to call it a day in the midst of the presentation for doubles, I insisted on staying for a while. My placard was grieving for an autograph. I looked at Charu near the nets. I shouted at the top of my voice. “Charu! Charu!” My voice was drowning in the ruckus all around. I kept at it. “Sharma! Sharma!” He didn’t seem to notice. Then once I went, “Sharmaji” This made Charu turn towards me. I signaled with my marker for an autograph. He nodded. I couldn’t believe he was actually coming towards me. He crossed all those hurdles (basically people intersecting him) from net to our corner and reached our side. I at once took out my hand saying, “Big fan!” He shook it acknowledging politely. Whilst he signed our placards, I looked at him with a smile. I was genuinely happy. My placards weren’t bleeding anymore. I had a celebrity right next to me. A big name in the Sports world. I saw guys next to me offering cameras to people below, just to grab pictures with him and Charu complying. It occurred to me to do the same. I slipped in, “You are doing a great job” as he turned around to smile for the camera. He said thank you to me and moved on to get his pictures taken with anyone who insisted.

Overall it turned out to be an amazing experience, with Charu providing us the icing we needed. As we were about to leave, I looked at Charu Sharma for the last time, as he posed for a photograph with a local ball boy, and I said to my friend with a smile on my countenance, “What a great guy!”


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