The sport has seen a few talented players emerge from the country over the years.
Tennis is arguably one of the most popular sports in India. Although, the country has not done exceptionally in the sport and people are usually interested to back their favourite foreign stars.
Overshadowed among the foreign trailblazers, there are some Indian tennis players who went onto achieve big things in their career. While some attained greatness by playing doubles, others were great singles players during their era.
We at Khel Now take a look at the top five Indian tennis players of all-time:
5. Mahesh Bhupathi
He became the first Indian tennis star to clinch a grand slam in doubles when he won the Rolland Garros with Rita Hiraki in 1997. The Chennai-born player was simply one of the best the country has ever seen and his partnership with Leander Paes gave it a different dimension altogether.
They were known as the ‘Indian Express’ and won two grand slams in 1999. The duo also qualified for all the four grand slam finals, becoming the No. 1 doubles team in the world.
Bhupathi ended his career with exceptional accolades- 12 grand slam titles (8 mixed and 4 doubles) making him one of the top athletes in Indian sport. He also had a great Davis Cup record. Winning the 2006 Australian Open along with Martina Hingis, which completed his career grand slam made him the poster boy of Indian tennis.
4. Ramanathan Krishnan
One of the early trendsetters of the game in India, Krishnan was one of the finest in the world during his era. The Chennai legend was the No.7 seed at Wimbledon in 1960, where he had a memorable run and was only defeated by eventual champion Neale Fraser. In the following year, he made his way past several top tennis players to get to the semi-finals, where again he lost out to the eventual champion Rod Laver.
With 55 career titles to his name and being as high as world No. 6 in 1961, Ramanathan Krishnan was definitely one of the finest of his era. Although, India has struggled to provide world-class singles players of his mould, Krishnan will be known for his accolades and relentless work that he has done in tennis even after retiring as a player.
3. Vijay Amritraj
He was the reason Indian tennis was relevant in the 70s and 80s, as the legend reached great heights in the sport. His career-best ranking of 16 in men’s singles at that point of time was very commendable considering the competition.
He was simply the best in Asia in that period, Vijay along with his brother Anand formed a lethal doubles team which won many accolades for the nation and is still considered legendary. In his peak years, Vijay Amritraj went head-to-head against the best in the world and won against all-time greats like Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver and John McEnroe. He reached four grand slam quarterfinals and also finished runners-up in the Davis Cup with his brother.
Vijay later turned to commentary and became a television pundit. He’s still well-known globally for his poise and grace on the court.
2. Sania Mirza
Undoubtedly one of the best tennis stars of this generation to come out from India and make a name at the global stage. Sania Mirza might be known for her titles in doubles, but she also started as a singles player and at the mere age of 16 she became the first Indian to bag the Junior Wimbledon title in 2003.
She gradually rose up the ranks and her notable wins in singles came against top professionals like Marion Bartoli, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva among others. Her career-best ranking as a singles player was 27 and after facing incessant injury concerns she decided to move to doubles permanently.
Her doubles career has been a dream. The former world No. 1 in doubles has won six grand slams so far and will be raring for more before she hangs up her racquet. Mirza’s partnership with Martina Hingis was a joy to watch, as the duo peaked during 2014-15, winning back to back grand slams.
In 2016, Sania Mirza was listed among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. Her accolades resonate way beyond India, as she is still inspiring a generation to take up tennis in the future.
1. Leander Paes
Probably the most decorated tennis star in India, Leander Paes has been nothing short of a revolution in the field of tennis. Paes is considered as one of the greatest doubles players to ever grace the game. He has bagged 18 grand slams in doubles, proving his legacy.
However, during his early days, Paes won the 1990 Wimbledon Boys Championship and later went on to become only the second Indian after KD Jadhav to clinch an Olympic individual medal, bagging the bronze at the 1996 Atalanta Olympics in men’s singles.
The Kolkata-born legend went on to register wins over Pete Sampras in 1997 at the New Haven Open, when Sampras was at the peak of his game and also over Roger Federer in 2000 at the Indian Wells Masters. He also holds the record for the most doubles wins in the Davis Cup, five gold medals in the Asian Cup and tons of other accolades in his locker.
The 46-year old tennis star has been already commemorated with the Khel Ratna, Padma Bhushan and the Arjuna Award for his exceptional contribution towards tennis and Indian sports in general.