The stories of several Indian triumphs: how did the best Indian tennis players managed to get on top?
Tennis, as a sport is inspiring. It takes more than several good serves and strong hits as well as an excellent technique to make this necessary in the world of tennis. Passion and determination are as vital as skills and talent. Since high results can only be achieved through constant perseverance, not many manage to do it for a long time.
The insane frenzy of cricket may overshadow tennis in India, but the sport has flourished in the country for a long time. Over the years, India has witnessed some impressive talent that has provided world-class performances. Here are the best Indian tennis players of all time who have taken pride in their nation.
For those people who have followed Indian tennis since its inception, Ramanathan Krishnan is no stranger. He is one of the few great Indian tennis players to be credited for putting the country on par with other heavyweights in the global competitive arena. A prolific player, it was perhaps Krishnan’s poise and characteristic agility that made him a crowd favourite and one of the best to leave the country.
Krishnan is the first Asian to win the Wimbledon Junior Championship, with his 1953 debut the following year, which also won the All India Championships a record six times and played eight finals, Krishnan easily ranks among the best tennis players India has ever produced. He was ranked 4th in the world at a time when there was no easy access to the best infrastructure facilities.
From national team leader to the first-ever Davis Cup final against Australia in 1966 to a half-century singles tournament win, Krishnan has been on the Davis Cup national team for over two decades, robbing him of his credibility as an outstanding player. Krishnan’s presence on the tennis track is fondly referred to as the golden era of Indian tennis, and he was one of the leading players in the world during the 50s and 60s.
Perhaps the most prolific of Indian tennis players, Leander Paes has always been a force to be reckoned with on the court. Whether it’s his intense performance or his unwavering determination, Paes has been instrumental in making tennis in India more than just a sport. His many feats on the court have ushered in a new era in Indian tennis, driven by passion and strength, not just the wonders that define the sport. Stylish and striking, Paes did honour that he played such an essential role in making the sport very popular in a country famous for its cricket craze.
Paes, one of the world’s greatest doubles tennis players, has outstanding records to his credit. His tennis racket heroism in the international arena can be traced back to his early days. He not only won the Junior US Open and Wimbledon titles but also climbed to first place in the world junior rankings.
Paes burst into the professional arena in 1991 with the same enthusiasm as he played in the quarter-finals of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona the following year. But his moment of greater prominence came four years later at the subsequent Atlanta Olympics when he defeated Fernando Meligeni to win the bronze medal, thereby becoming the first Indian player in 44 years to win an individual award.
Paes also became the oldest person to win a Grand Slam at 41 years. He won the mixed crown at the 2015 Australian Open alongside Swiss Martina Hingis. Together with another famous Indian tennis player Mahesh Bhupati, Paes had an immense reputation in the world of tennis couples. Called the “Indian Express”, the pair have won some victories for India in many international tournaments.
If Leander Paes was the one who heralded the renaissance of Indian tennis in the modern era, then it was Sanya Mirza who was the standard-bearer of Indian women’s tennis. Saniya Mirza is the only Indian woman ever to win a Grand Slam, and also the highest-ranking Indian player. Her powerful kicks from behind complement her furious personality well both in life and on the court. However, for some who were told to quit playing for just eight years because then “no one would marry her, Mirza’s story is not only about passion and talent, but also about determination and determination.”
Mirza’s reputation as the most successful Indian tennis player ever also foreshadowed her public image. Mirza, one of the highest-paid and top class female athletes in the country, became the first female player in the country to earn the US $ 1 million in career.
Also, the former world number one doubles, Mirza’s Grand Slam cabinet is equally decorated with six doubles and mixed doubles. Sanya was the first Indian woman to be seeded in a Grand Slam at the 2006 Australian Open, while at the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, Mirza’s top seeding made her again the first female player from a country with such a distinction.
Mirza’s series of unprecedented victories and exploits on the tennis court in the international arena also brought her recognition and fame. Her inspiring journey led to her being named one of Asia’s 2005 Heroes by Time magazine on October 50. UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women in South Asia and one of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine in 2016, Mirza’s success and confidence breeds boundaries and spheres, from a global citizen to an international player, many of Mirza’s achievements are unmatched. Moreover, she is the only woman on the list.
For the longest time in Indian tennis history, the buzz has been dominated by the legendary couples Mahesha Bhupati and Leander Paes, who have come together to create exceptional records and have propelled Indian tennis onto the world stage.
The Paes-Bhupathi pair was also the first doubles team to reach the final of all four Grand Slam tournaments and became the first in the history of Open Era names to achieve the feat. Together they also had the longest pair streak in Davis Cup history.
From the first Indian player to win a Grand Slam tournament to achieving a Grand Slam career in mixed doubles, Mahesh has also been considered the best doubles player in tennis history.
Another Indian tennis player who has been one of the leaders of tennis in recent years is Vijay Amritraj. Even after more than two decades of his retirement from the professional sport, Amritraj remains the highest-rated Indian singles player with his World No. Part of the famous ABC of Tennis, along with legends Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors, who he also won, Vijay has also been the number 1 tennis player in Asia for over ten years.
While India has played in doubles and mixed doubles events on the world stage, solo feats are relatively few in this country. Among the rare breeds of Indian athletes who have been active and quite successful in the individual race is Somdev Devvarman. The only varsity tennis player to have made three consecutive finals in the NCCA, it may have been an intense junior competition that prepared Devvarman to compete nationally and internationally. He remains one of the strongest tennis players to emerge in India in the modern era of sports.