Tennis in India
India has a lot of tennis fans and it is not surprising why. After all, the sport attracts thousands of avid viewers as the country produces some of the most followed tennis players including Vijay Amritraj, Leander Paes, and Sania Mirza who all graced and penetrated the international tennis scene. Recent Indian tennis players who frequent major Grand Slam tournaments help in keeping the sport alive and famous in the subcontinent.
Tennis has progress immensely since it was first introduced in India.
As most of the popular contemporary sport in the country, tennis is a product of British colonialism. During those times, the sport is enjoyed only by the rulers, the elite, and the people at the top of the hierarchy. The colonial powers created the All India Tennis Association culminating to numerous tournaments all over the country. However, it was only until their independence when the sport sparked massive nationwide interest—specially when their players Ramanathan Krishnan and Premjit Lal became known.
Krishnan, one of the greatest Indian tennis personalities in the 50s and 60s, has a record six-time All India Championship title under his belt. He even made it to the Wimbledon semifinals during the 1960 and 1961 seasons. While not winning any major international titles, he is remembered as one who inspired a lot of future tennis talents and athletes through his style, play, and record.
Krishnan’s retirement from the sport left a void in the sport that many believed was filled by the rising star Vijay Amritraj. At 17 years old, Amritraj has a lot to fill, in but he managed to subvert and even exceeded all expectations when he won against the best tennis players at the time.
Vijay Amritraj defeated three-time Wimbledon title holder John McEnro in the 1984 Cincinnati Masters and showing a great fight against tennis stars Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver at Wimbledon.
The lack of training facilities in the country did not deter Amritraj to get his name in the international scene appearing in quarterfinals in the US open and Wimbledon twice in his career. In addition, he made the semifinals in Wimbledon in the men’s double when he was paired with his brother Anand Amritraj.
In the next years, another Amritraj, Prakash Amritraj took the limelight and graced many ATP tours in his career.
Singles to Doubles
In the 90s, Indian tennis stars focused more on doubles competitions rather than singles tournaments. This started after Leander Pae’s Olympic podium finish in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and paired with Lisa Raymond and won the 1999 Wimbledon tournament. Four years after, he teamed with Martina Navratilova and won the Australian Open. He went back to Wimbledon doubles competition and the 1999 French open with new doubles partner Mahes Bhupathi and won the tournaments, winning against the world’s best doubles team at the time.
The duo, often called the “Lee-Hesh”, took home the Wimbledon title some years later while Bhupathi paired with Belarusian Max Mirnyi left a gold-medal finish at the 2002 US Open. Lee-Hesh competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics losing to the Swiss gold medalists Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.
Today and Tomorrow
Recently, Indian tennis stars include Rohan Boppana and Sania Mirza. Mirza bagged the Wimbledon and the US Open doubles category titles in 2015, teaming up with Martina Hingis from Switzerland. Bopanna became famous after a Grand Slam win in 2017 in the mixed category. Mirza and Bopanna also played in the recent Olympics though failed to bring home any medals.
Today, famous Indian athletes include Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Sumit Nagal, and Ankita Raina who curently shaping their careers in recent times. Above all, they keep the tennis spirit in the country alive with hopes of inspiring the next generation of tennis stars as they play for their fans and the country’s glory.