2015 in Indian tennis: Players to watch out for in 2016
The country’s big marquee players – Sania Mirza, Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna – have all put in incredible performances this year, with Mirza hitting the top doubles ranking and ending the year on a high.
We’ve analysed the achievements of the country’s experienced aces – but youngsters have done well this year too, which portends well for the future of Indian tennis!
Here’s how the year went for some of the country’s less well-known tennis players:
Juniors make the right noises: eventful 2015 for young talent
India’s junior boys and girls have shown some promise with good results in 2015.
Among them, Sumit Nagal and Karman Kaur Thandi have had the best results this year. The highlight of Nagal’s year was the Wimbledon boys doubles title that he won in partnership with Vietnam’s Ly Hoang Nam.
In doing so, he became the first Indian after Yuki Bhambri to win a grand slam at the juniors level. Apart from the win at Wimbledon, Nagal also won a singles title at a Grade 1 tournament at Offenbach. He also amassed four Futures level titles, one in the doubles and three in the singles, marking a smooth transition to the seniors level. He is currently ranked at no.416 in singles and no.56 in the juniors rankings. .
Karman Kaur Thandi also had a memorable year. The biggest win of her juniors career came at the same Grade 1 Offenbach tournament, where she won the singles title. The 17-year-old also notched a few other memorable wins at the juniors level, including another title and a round of sixteen appearance at the US Open singles before losing to the eventual champion, Hungarian Dalma Galfi.
In the last few months of the year, she shifted her focus to senior level ITF tournaments. Here, she managed to qualify for a few $50k tournaments and won two doubles titles at the $10k level apart from another final appearance at the same level. She is now ranked at no.692 in singles, no.707 in doubles and at no.49 in the juniors rankings.
Partnering Thandi to the two doubles victories was another up and coming player, 18-year-old Dhruthi Tatachar Venugopal. Apart from the two titles with Thandi, Venugopal also bagged two others in addition o a couple of runner-up finishes.
She also bagged two gold medals at the Commonwealth Youth games, in singles and mixed doubles (with Sasi Kumar Mukund). Her singles and doubles rankings are currently 563 and 479 respectively.
Sasi Kumar Mukund, another product of the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) also rose to prominence this season. He captured his first futures level title at the Madurai ITF event this year.
He was also part of the Commonwealth Youth Games contingent, striking another two gold medals, again in singles and mixed doubles.
Sixteen-year-old Pranjala Yadlapalli was the most successful player in the juniors circuit. Having played more at the juniors level, she is currently ranked 20th in the world.
Yadlapalli reached her career high ranking of no.17 earlier this year. Among her significant title wins this year came at the Asian Closed Junior Championships at both singles and doubles, the WTA Future Stars under 16 tournament (singles), which was held in the sidelines of the WTA Championships in Singapore and the prestigious Orange Bowl Championships (doubles).
Another young star was 14-year-old WTA Futures stars semifinalist Mahak Jain while eighteen-year-old, Snehadevi Reddy also won a title each in singles and doubles.
Juniors have made considerable strides in the junior level and also at ITF tournaments.
Barring a few good performances however, India will need to step up its singles proficiency as most strong results for the juniors have come in the doubles
Women at the ITF level: Prerna Bhambri is now second best
India’s top women’s singles player, Ankita Raina, did not have as successful a year as she will have wanted.
After ending 2014 with a series of impressive results and reaching her career high ranking of no.222 in April, her results deteriorated during the course of the year. She was on a 9-match losing streak starting in July. Having failed to defend her $25k from Pune in last December, she is now ranked at no. 263.
The player who gained most during the year in terms of result was Prerna Bhambri. Starting in July, she reached a couple of finals and collected a handful of titles at the lower level ITF tournaments.
She now has three singles and two doubles titles from her exploits this year, which is a marked improvement from the two titles she held before the start of the year. She was on a thirteen match winning streak in late November and early December before losing to Karman Kaur Thandi.
Bhambri is now ranked at no.417, a spot below her career high ranking which she achieved the previous week.
Though singles titles were hard to come by, Indian players managed to win many doubles titles. Rishika Sunkara bagged four of them while Sowjanya Bavisetti also four of them, with the two of them winning three titles in unison.
Sunkara also won her second ever singles title at the Raipur $10K and reached a career high ranking of 441. Sharrmadaa Balu collected her second singles title at the Bhopal $10k and reached a career high ranking of 582.
The highlight of her year was the $25k dobles title that she won at Ferghana in partnership with Tadeja Majeric of Slovakia. It was one of four doubles titles she won during the year.
Prarthana Thombare stands out, sets sight at Rio Olympics
Another standout performance this year came from 21-year-old Prarthana Thombare. After her steady rise in the singles last year, it looked like she would follow Ankita into the top 300, but 2015 had other surprises for her. Her performances in singles declined continuously and her ranking plummeted.
This was in stark contrast to the stellar season that she has had in doubles. With nine titles, including two $25,000 ones, she is the leader among Indians in title wins.
Barring two tournaments in March, she has reached the finals of every tournament she has played at the $10,000 level. Of the 22 tournaments that she played, she reached 14 finals.
She is now ranked at a career high ranking of no.265, poised to rise further next week after picking up 30 points from for the runner-up finish at the recently concluded Pune $25,000 tournament.
It might be too early to say this is a sign of her future, but Thombare has definitely shown she is a cut above the rest when it comes to doubles.
She has a bronze medal from the 2014 Asian Games to her credit, which she won in tandem with Sania Mirza. She also moved to Hyderabad earlier this year to train at SMTA. This could all bode well for her dream of playing at the Olympics with the World no. 1.
Men at the ITF tournaments: Vijay Sundar Prashanth surprises
Ramkumar Ramanathan did advance a few steps to be ranked at no.208, his best ever ranking, in mid June. Since, however, he has dropped to 248 at the end of the year.
There were no significant results for him in 2015, but managed to remain in the top 250, participating in the qualifying rounds of three Grand Slams.
Vijay Sundar Prashanth had an unexpected rise in 2015. He defeated Yuki Bhambri in the first round of the Chennai Open qualifying and went on to reach the main draw. He also won three singles titles at Futures tournaments apart from five in doubles. The 29-year-old is currently ranked at no.379 in singles after an improved 2015.
Among the others, Sanam Singh is closing in on the gap between the top 4 and others. He is now at no. 278, having peaked at 266 in October, while Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sriram Balaji failed to make an impact in singles.
While Nedunchezhiyan was ranked as high as 158 in doubles with a Challenger title and five futures titles to his credit, Sriram Balaji won five at the futures level.