Tennis: Bhutan will host its first international tennis event, the Asian Tennis Tour (ATT) 2016, from September 16 to 18 in Thimphu.

Bhutan becomes the fourth country to host the tournament in the circuit of Asia.

The tournament is organised by the Bhutan Tennis Federation (BTF) to provide the Bhutanese tennis players with the much-needed exposure and to bring at par the local players with the regional and international counterparts.

The tournament will focus on identifying and recognising intermediate players in the region who do not make it to the elite groups in the world rankings.

Of the two tournament category sanctioned by the ATT, Bhutan will host category I of the competition where the prize money is UDS 5,000. Asian players with valid membership and holding the Asian Player Identification Number will only be able to take part in the tour.

The registrations of the players are done online based on certain eligibility criteria. The criteria involve the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings of the players and the number of international tours attended.

Since none of the players from Bhutan is either on the ATP or the WTA ranking charts, BTF national head coach, Tshering Namgay said that the federation has requested ATT and has registered the country’s four top players for the tour.

The head coach expects at least three of his players to make it into the main draw and compete in the round of 16 through wildcard entry. He said that the tour will be an opportunity for the Bhutanese players to showcase their talents against some of the best players in the region.

“More than winning, our players will get an opportunity to compete against better players, whereby they can learn and know their own standings in Asia,” said Tshering Namgay.

The head coach added that if the event is successful, the International Tennis Federation will sanction further international competitions to be hosted in the country.

Participation is expected from countries like India, Thailand, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, BTF is currently renovating and upgrading its clubhouse near the Changlimithang Stadium for the upcoming competition. Several new facilities such as player lounge, changing rooms, conference hall and pro-shops are being added.

A new court will also be completed by the end of the year to fulfil the minimum requirement to host any international competitions in the country.

Younten Tshedup