Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Game, Set and Match

Mr. Bhupati is a great tennis player, a businessman and a socialite. In some time, he is going to marry Ms. Dutta, a former beauty queen and an actress. This is just one more of those highly gossiped about nuptials between sports-persons and models/actresses. In fact, if the rumour engines are to be trusted, the wedding(in Goa :D) invitation list even includes Mr. Bhupati's dear friend, Mr. Federer!

Now this news has got me thinking about the state of Indian tennis.

In the 50s and 60s, there was a highly gifted Chennai lad who was making good name for India in the tennis circles. In an era dominated, almost overwhelmingly by Laver, Newcombe, Emerson and Pancho Gonzales, it is quite an achievement to make yourself even visible, and Ramanathan Krishnan was more than just visible. Known for his extreme finesse on court, he reached two Wimbledon semi-finals, losing both times to the eventual champions. His greatest achievement was perhaps the remarkable comeback from 5-2 down in the fourth set against Brazilian Tomas Koch to take India to its first Davis Cup final. His victory over Laver in Davis Cup(1959) and the Wimbledon junior title in 1954 were some of career highlights.

His son Ramesh Krishnan too made the tricolour a force to reckon with. Thrice a grand-slam quarter-finalist, he led India to their second Davis Cup(1987) final by defeating Australians Masur and Fitzgerald in the semi-finals.

India's best chance by far to win the tennis doubles gold were in the 2000 summer Olympics at Sydney and Athens respectively. In 1999, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati reached all four Grand Slam doubles finals, winning the French+Wimbledon double. It was a a new peak in Indian tennis. In 2004, they had quarter and semi-final runs in several events leading up to Athens. The only tennis medal yet was the Bronze medal run by Paes in Atlanta(1996), where he lost to Agassi in the semifinals.

Several controversies aside, Sania Mirza was once World No. 27.

Currently, there is only one ATP level tournament in India and barring one, all male players rank well below 200.

This sport needs some attention, and the "Bhutta" wedding is not the kind of attention it needs. Hopefully we'll have a grand-slam champion in the next 10 years.

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