The Arjuna Award is the 2nd highest sporting honor bestowed by the Government of India after the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. The award is given by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports every year on the 29th of August, the birth anniversary of the hockey wizard Dhyan Chand.
These awards, chosen by a panel of experts formed by the Government of India, recognize the accomplishments of all Indian sportspersons across various sporting disciplines over the last 4 years, and more specifically in the last year. The awards were first presented in the year 1961 and more than 800 sportspersons have received this recognition since then.
A total of 95 sportspersons have been bestowed with the Arjuna Award in racquet sports - 32 in Badminton, 29 in Table Tennis, 18 in Tennis, 10 in Squash and 6 in Ball Badminton. In the year 2019, nineteen sportspersons were recognized with the Arjuna Award with Sai Praneeth (Badminton) and Harmeet Desai (Table Tennis) being the recipients for racquet sports.
Let us have a look at some of the Indian racquet sports stars who could be recommended for the Arjuna Award for the year 2020.
# 3 Divij Sharan
Divij Sharan is the latest in the list of Indian tennis stars who have excelled on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour in men's doubles. With a World Ranking of 56, he is currently the 2nd highest-ranked Indian player in men's doubles after Rohan Bopanna (World No. 37).
The 34-year old Divij has been dishing out consistent performances for over a decade, both in the ATP tour, and for India in the Davis Cup and multi-sport events like the Asian Games. On the ATP tour, Divij has managed to win 5 titles in men's doubles. Apart from winning these titles, his biggest achievement was reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2018 along with his Kiwi partner Artem Sitak.
Divij has excelled while playing for India as well, especially at the Asian Games. At the 2014 Asian Games, he bagged a bronze medal in men's doubles, partnering Yuki Bhambri, but the icing on the cake was the gold medal he won at the 2018 Asian Games again in the company of Bopanna.
Having already made the nation proud at the Asian level, Divij would be hoping to qualify for the all-important Tokyo Olympics 2021 and bring laurels to the country.
#2 Ankita Raina
Ankita Raina is the highest-ranked Indian tennis player on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) circuit both in the singles and doubles disciplines. She is currently ranked 163rd in the singles and 122nd in the doubles, higher than the Indian tennis queen Sania Mirza who is on a comeback trail post her two-year hiatus.
On the professional circuit, Ankita has managed to bag one WTA Challenger Doubles title at the Taipei Open in 2018. Apart from that, she has bagged 11 titles in singles and 17 titles in doubles on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Women's Circuit. She made a bright start to the year 2020 by claiming two titles each in singles and doubles.
The highest points in Ankita's career have been achieved while representing the country where she has tended to raise her game several notches. She gave a glimpse of her fighting attitude by bagging a bronze medal in women's singles at the 2018 Asian Games. But the stand-out performance came in the Fed Cup 2020 Asia-Oceania zone tournament where she came through some grueling ties in both singles and doubles. This helped India make it through to the Fed Cup playoffs for the very first time.
#1 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have been a breath of fresh air for India on the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour in men's doubles. The duo is currently ranked 10th in the BWF World Rankings.
The Satwik-Chirag pair has had an outstanding last couple of years. They were a part of the Indian badminton team that won the mixed team Gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. They followed that up by winning a silver medal in the men's doubles event at the same Games.
That had a brilliant 2019 on the BWF World Tour and became the first Indian men's doubles pair to win a title at a Super 500 level tournament when they won the 2019 Thailand Open. They also finished as the runners-up in the Super 750 French Open last year, apart from other consistent performances on the tour.
The attacking game of Satwik and the deft net game of Chirag proved to be perfect complements to each other as they went on to cause many upset wins over their higher-ranked opponents.
The pair started 2020 on a positive note by winning a bronze medal at the Asia Team Championships as a part of the Indian men's team. They would be hoping to continue this form and bag an unprecedented medal for India in the men's doubles event at the Tokyo Olympics 2021.Published 05 Apr 2020, 21:27 IST