As one who has closely observed the Indian tennis scene during its halcyon days from the late 50s to the late 80s it pains me no end to see the depressing scenario these days when India is nowhere on the international stage and the players are making little headway around the ATP Tour circuit.
Krishnan had Jaideep Mukherjea and Premjit Lal as his trusted partners in the 60s while Vijay and Anand had Sashi Menon and Jasjit Singh as able lieutenants in the 70s. Ramesh made his presence felt in the 80s and he was joined in the 90s by Leander Paes. Even in the 90s Ramesh and Paes saw to it that India at least stayed in the prestigious World Group including a famous upset win over France at Frejus in 1993 which saw India through to the semifinals.
Even after Ramesh retired Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi teamed up to keep the Indian flag aloft. While Paes notched up courageous victories in the singles he and Bhupathi emerged as a formidable doubles combination and India continued to just about stay in the World Group.
Somdev Devvarman was India’s leading player in the first decade of the new millennium but he was not good enough to see that India maintained a sustained challenge to get back into the World Group on a regular basis.
Moreover he did not make an impression in the Grand Slams going down in the second round at all four events. Worse was to follow after his retirement a few years ago for the cupboard has been bare. It is a tribute to the remarkable fitness of Paes who continued to play doubles till his mid 40s but obviously the impact was limited.
The 28-year-old Yuki Bhambri for example in 2009 became the first Indian to win the junior singles event at the Australian Open only the fourth Indian after Ramanathan Krishnan, Ramesh Krishnan and Leander Paes to win a junior singles title at a Grand Slam. But in six entries at four Grand Slams from 2015 to 2018 he has lost in the first round. After achieving a highest ranking of 83 three years ago he has since slipped to 137.
Much the same may be said about Prajnesh now 31. At the subsidiary level he has not done badly winning two ATP Challenger and eight ITF singles titles. But when it comes to tournaments that really matter he has not progressed beyond the first round at each of the four Grand Slam events. A bronze medal in the men’s singles event at the 2018 Asian Games at Jakarta is poor consolation for one who promised so much and after achieving a career best ranking of 75 in 2019 he has now slipped to 130.
The latest to join the Indian bandwagon is 23-year-old Sumit Nagal who first came into prominence in 2015 by winning the boys doubles title at Wimbledon. Coming through the qualifying rounds at the US Open in 2019 he caused a flutter by taking a set off Roger Federer in the first round and the all-time great had a few good things to say about the talented young Indian.
A year later he went one better by making the second round of the US Open becoming the first Indian since Somdev to win a match in the main draw before being defeated by the No 2 seed Dominic Thiem. However Sumit has been eliminated at the qualifying stage at both Wimbledon and the French Open and this year went down in the first round at the Australian Open. After achieving a career best ranking of 122 some six months ago Sumit is now at 136.
So it is easy to see why India is not making a splash at the Davis Cup and why Indian players are not making any impact around the ATP Tour circuit let alone Grand Slams. The way things are the record is unlikely to improve. #KhabarLive #hydnews