INDIA: A cricket-worshipping nation which has failed to produce a Grand Slam Singles’ winner for over 100 years, or more specifically, since the emergence of the game. The best which the country has witnessed is perhaps the Bronze by Leander Paes at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, or the men’s doubles titles for Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi as well as the women’s doubles for Sania Mirza. Yes, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have both ensured that India at least doesn’t find herself thrown out of the International Tennis fray. Both Paes and Bhupathi are in fact considered amongst the best Doubles’ players of all time. They have kept the tri-colour fluttering high.
But the million dollar question is: Till when can they solely carry the burden of the entire nation?
Its hard to foresee Indian tennis witnessing any worthwhile and significant achievement post the Paes-Bhupathi era. There have been the likes of Somdev Devvarman, who was really impressive initially but expecting him to win a major or something of that stature would be looking far too ahead. Rohan Bopanna too seemed impressive with his partner Aisam-Ul-Haq-Quereshi but the beauty in the rallies faded faster than it appeared. The inexperienced Vishnu Vardhan doesn’t promise to be a star too.
The future of Indian tennis, just doesn’t look the brightest. We just haven’t got the fire in the belly to produce the stars of tomorrow. Is not even one of 1.2 billion people within the domestic territory of the country capable of doing what it takes to take on the biggest names in the business? Is it so outside our reach to do what most other nations have, and that too with ease? Is it just indifference to the current situation or lack of needs and opportunities which have restricted India to the status a mere spectator of World Tennis and not a participant.
It’s not that we have never had our chances. Yes, Vijay Amritraj did defeat Connors, the best at that time. Yes, Sania Mirza did break into the top 25 in the WTA Rankings, yes Leander Paes did win that career-defining Bronze in Atlanta. But why go back to the times of glory? Why not stay in the present and prepare for the future. Only one ‘kal’ out of ‘Kal, Aaj aur Kal’ has to be on our agenda and that ‘kal’ is tomorrow. We cannot change what has happened, but of course that what will be done. As someone so rightly pointed it out the other day, “Indian Tennis needs its own Pullella Gopichand”. Yes, we need an inspiration, someone we can live up to; someone who can tell the budding racket-bearers that you can make it big.
Only then can we hope for a turnaround in things…