“There is a certain beauty & majesty to Wimbledon” described the seven-time Grand Slam winner, John McEnroe. As Rafael Nadal’s La Decima triumph comes to an end, it’s now time that the tennis world moves on to one of the most elegant and prestigious tournaments- ‘The Wimbledon’.
The most prestigious among tennis Grand Slam events, the Wimbledon, has always been a place where every tennis players dream to succeed. Not everyone is able to do it, but those who have will surely tell you that there is no better feeling than making a name for yourself at this tennis event of epic proportions.
In cricket-crazy India, tennis has a long history. In fact, Indians have been participating at Wimbledon since 1908, decades before the country gained Independence from British rule. The tournament started in 1877.
Sardar Nihal Singh
Sardar Nihal Singh was the first to play Wimbledon Championship. He played three Wimbledon tournaments between 1908-1910, in both the singles and doubles category. In 1910, Singh reached the third round in the men’s singles category, his best performance in three years he played at Wimbledon. He was playing more than a decade before the ‘All India Lawn Tennis Association’ or AILTA was constituted as the governing body for the sports in India in 1920. A year later, India made its debut at the Davis Cup reaching the semi-finals of the tournament.
Ramanathan Krishnan (1960)
The very first true championship material tennis player produced by India, Ramanathan Krishnan showed his exemplary class in edging out one opponent after one on course to the semi-finals in 1960. Eventually, he was beaten in straight sets by eventual champions and former world number 1, Neal Fraser. Ramanathan Krishnan won many hearts as he became the first Indian to reach the last four stage of a Grand Slam. However, his performance was hardly a surprise as he was seeded seventh before the start of the tournament.
In 1961 the Championship saw Krishnan take his game to the next level as he managed to become a semi-finalist for the second time in two years. Interestingly, in the quarters, Ramanathan beat none other than the legendary Australian tennis player Roy Emerson in straight sets to set up a clash with yet another legend, Rod Laver. Though he was beaten comprehensively by Laver, his feat remains the best by an Indian player till date.
One of the most popular faces of Indian tennis, Vijay Amritraj put a great performance in the 1973 Wimbledon Championships when he reached the quarter-finals. And despite being unseeded he proceeded to the quarters without much trouble. He gave the eventual champion Jan Kodes a tough fight in the quarters which he lost narrowly in a five-set thriller. Amritraj won accolades from all corners for his impressive showing in the grandest tennis event.
Meanwhile, eight years later Vijay Amritraj proved his mettle as one of the greatest tennis players produces by India when he reached Wimbledon quarter-finals for the second time. This time too he was unseeded prior to the start. In the quarters he was up against the iconic American tennis player, Jimmy Connors. It was yet another exhilarating five-set encounter. Amritraj played 90 games across categories in 18 consecutive Wimbledon tournaments between 1972 and 1990. He now provides commentary for Wimbledon games shown on Indian television.
Son of Indian tennis legend Ramanathan Krishnan did his father and entire nation proud by reaching the quarters of the 1986 Wimbledon Championship. The main highlight of his road to quarters was an unlikely victory over sixth seed, Sweden’s Joakim Nystrom in the third round. In the quarters, he faced Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia and took the match into the fourth set before finally succumbing.
The list of tennis veterans is incomplete without Mahesh Bhupathi, the first Indian to win a Grand Slam tournament in 1997 at the Roland Garros (French Open) in the men’s doubles category. Two years later Bhupati with Leander Paes made it to the doubles finals in all four Grand Slams, winning two of them – at Wimbledon and the Roland Garros.
Paes became the third Indian to win the junior title in 1990. Seeded 11, Paes defeated South African Marcus Ondruska, seeded two. Paes appeared in the men’s singles event from 1996 but has never gone past the first round. However, in 1999 Paes along with partner Mahesh Bhupathi created history by becoming the first Indians to win a major title at Wimbledon. Paes, then added another title to his kitty, when he won the mixed doubles title with American Lisa Raymond.
India’s first female tennis player Sania Mirza created a history in 2015 by becoming the first female player from India to win a women’s doubles Grand Slam trophy at Wimbledon with the Swiss partner Martina Hingis. In an interesting coincidence, it was at these very historic courts that Sania had won women’s doubles junior Wimbledon championship with Russian partner Alisa Kleybanova in 2003.
In 2015, another Indian entered the history books as the only sixth Indian to win a Grand Slam junior title after winning the boy’s doubles at Wimbledon with partner Nam Hoang Ly. Yuki Bhambri was the last Indian to taste success at the top level in junior tennis when he won the Australian Open boys singles title in 2009.
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