The Lonely Warriors
Indian tennis has evolved over the years. It is always nice to pay tribute to the top contributors to the modern Indian tennis. Here is my pick of the top 7 contributors to Indian tennis.
1. Leander Paes: The reason why I have put Leander Paes right on top is because it is Leander with his persona and energy that made Indians look at tennis with interest. His on court antics and bustling energy made Indians talk about India and its progress in the Davis Cup. Leander never had a big game overall. Off course he had the finest hands at the net. But what he had most importantly was the guts and fighting qualities that brought glory against much fancied opponents like Goran Ivanisevic, Pete Sampras, Sergi Bruguera, Henri Leconte, Wayne Ferreira etc.
His glory at the Davis Cup and Olympics gave the nation and its budding players the belief that we can be world beaters in the sport. His grand slams glory in doubles gave India its much needed presence in the tennis world map. His longevity as a player is also a testimony to his passion and commitment to the sport.
2. Vijay Amritraj: At a time when tennis was already a global game, in India tennis was still an unknown entity restricted to a minimal interest level during the Wimbledon. That is why Vijay Amritraj needs special mention when he emerged as a teenage sensation who went on to reach the quarter finals of a Grand Slam for 4 times. In fact his highest ranking was 16 on the ATP. His early prowess earned him a place in the ABC ( Amritraj, Borg, Connors) of tennis.
3. Sania Mirza: The 3rd in my list is Sania Mirza for many reasons. One is because unlike the men`s game Indian women`s was never taken seriously. Mostly because we did not have anyone to follow. The only player to a small repute was Nirupama Vaidyanathan. To come out of such an environment and excel with aplomb, Sania truly deserves kudos from the entire nation. As a teenager she had a fearsome forehand and reached as high as 27 on the WTA. Today whatever she is doing in the doubles and mixed doubles front has given enough confidence to our girls that we have in us to be world beaters.
4. Ramesh Krishnan: If ever you had a gentle giant on a tennis court, I do not think that anyone has a claim on that title as much as Ramesh Krishnan. Often referred to as a SIlken Surgeon, he reached quarter finals of a grand slam twice and rose to as high as 23 on the ATP. He was also instrumental in helping India reach the Davis Cup final in 1987.
5. Mahesh Bhupathi: For many years after Vijay Amritraj, we did not have the pleasure of a big serving Indian on a tennis court. In came Mahesh Bhupathi with his big serve who along with Leander Paes formed a formidable doubles team and brought India Grand Slam success. He has also been instrumental in guiding and helping future Indian players like Sumit Nagal and Karman Kaur Thandi.
6. Somdev Devvarman: At a time when India had rich doubles success, Somdev was the lone star shining in the singles front. With two ATP tour finals he also reached as high as 62 on the ATP which is indeed commendable during the age of highly competitive tennis. Also we should not forget his Davis Cup exploits for the country.
7. Rohan Bopanna: It is indeed great to see Rohan Bopanna finally achieving Grand Slam success albeit a bit late. He has also been one of the guys instrumental in bringing glory and interest to the Indian tennis fraternity. His is already starting to give back to the game in the form of his tennis academy, RBTA in Bangalore.
This sums up my top 7. What is yours?