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‘No regret playing Davis cup for Slovenia’

Chennai has been a favourite hunting ground for Great Britain’s Aljaz Bedene. The Slovenia-born player, competing as a qualifier in 2015, was the cynosure when he finished runner-up behind Stan Wawrinka. He rose to a career-best ranking of 45 and 2016 promised a lot.

‘No regret playing Davis cup for Slovenia’
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Aljaz Bedene during a practice session in Chennai

Chennai

The 27-year-old made a semi-final appearance at the Chennai Open and then with the tennis federation not allowing him to compete in the Davis Cup under Great Britain’s flag (as players who represented other countries cannot as per rule), Bedene’s form nose-dived. Bedene made it to the main draw in the 2017 edition of Chennai Open as Tommy Robredo had pulled out with a foot injury. Bedene hopes to cash in on the chance. 

“I wouldn’t say the player field is the strongest in most years because Stan is not playing, the usual winner. But there are many who can play good tennis and there is definitely quality. Every match is going to be a different one and there are going to be many good matches. We have to see what the draw brings,” Bedene said on the side lines of a practice session here. 

Bedene had focussed a lot on Davis Cup and played two dead rubbers for Slovenia and the federation didn’t allow him to play for Great Britain. The 27-year-old cited the team tournament is prestigious. 

“It is important. I have been fighting for it for so long. I love team competitions. Like a month and a half ago, I played county tennis, County Cup in England. It is a team competition in my county. It was fun. It is different. When you get to play for a country and specially with a team, it’s a different feeling. It means a lot. But yes, I lost quite a lot of energy in that (fighting with the federation for a place in the GB team),” he added. 

However, Bedene said he had no regrets playing the two matches for Slovenia. “I have none. It was my decision to play and representing the country is a matter of pride for me. The rules were different then. Even if the rules were changed then, I would have still played for my country as it is a matter of pride for me,” he said. 

Bedene has set himself a realistic target for 2017. “I would like to be in top-30, to be seen in the Australian Open main draw in 2018. I have been working hard for that. I have changed a few things. I know I always play well in Chennai. So, I am hoping Chennai will be a good turnaround for me,” he added. 

“There are so many good players in the Open. First is, of course, Marin Cilic and then my good friend Roberto Bautista Agut. Even qualifiers can be dangerous. I don’t know who is working hard and who is better prepared than last year. A lot can change with a few wins.”

Stan is too expensive for Chennai

The absence of Stan Wawrinka, who won the Chennai Open four times, has dampened the spirits of tennis buffs in the city. However, tournament director Tom Annear seemed to be a happy man. Annear admitted that making Wawrinka sign for Chennai was a tough task. “We called him the King of Chennai. He has won the tournament four times. He was obviously the first choice. However, after winning the US Open this year, his stocks soared high. He became expensive and we cannot afford him,” he said. The tournament director said there was a lot of convincing he had to do to get Marin Cilic into the draw. “We are one of three ATP 250 events (the other being Doha and Brisbane). Doha and Brisbane have a big prize money. Considering that top-10 players fighting for limited options, we are happy to get Marin (Cilic) who is World No 6 here,” Annear added. Annear said a huge player budget would attract more top-10 players. “We need more prize money. A budget as a size of Doha and Perth would be a game changer. A player losing the first round in Doha gets two or three times more than what he gets losing first round in Chennai. That is the key,” he added.

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