The Davis Cup tournament, which was started in 1900, is the main international team event in men’s tennis. It has a long history of fiercely contested matches, passionate fans and teammates alike, and some excellent tennis.Currently, there are 125 countries participating in the Davis Cup, with India amongst them. Although having finished runner-up on three occasions in 1966, 1974, and 1987 respectively, India is yet to win the title. In this slideshow, we look at some of the most successful Indian players to have competed in the Davis Cup:
#5 Vijay Amritraj
Vijay Amritraj has represented India for a lengthy 17 years at the Davis Cup, from 1970 to 1988. Having a 45-28 win-loss record at the Davis Cup, Amritraj was an important part of Team India which reached the finals in 1974 and 1987. With 27 singles wins, and 18 doubles wins, Amritraj was known for playing in a very passionate manner.
He often teamed up with his brother, Anand Amritraj, to play doubles ties, and the two brothers often played much in sync and were delightful to watch.
Currently, Vijay Amritraj is a sports commentator, most notably at Wimbledon matches and also runs a charity organisation called ‘The Vijay Amritraj Foundation’.
For his contribution to tennis, Vijay was awarded the Padma Shri in 1983.
#4 Premjit Lall
Premjit Lall, who played for India at the Davis Cup from 1959 to 1973, was one of the ‘Three Musketeers’ of Indian tennis during the 1960’s, along with Jaidip Mukerjea and Ramanathan Krishnan. His Davis Cup record stood at 58-32 with 34 singles wins and 24 doubles wins.
He was part of the famous Indian team that defeated Germany 3-2 in the inter-zonal semifinals in 1966 as well as in 1968.
Ramanathan Krishnan shared a great camaraderie with Lall: "We used to interact so much outside the courts too. And it was not just during Davis Cup or other matches that we met and socialised," said Krishnan.
"One of the most memorable team matches was when we beat Brazil in the Inter-Zonal final at Kolkata in 1966 and both of us were members of the side. However, we lost to Australia in the final," he recounted.
Lall was given the Arjuna Award in 1967 to honour his tennis exploits.
#3 Jaidip Mukerjea
Jaidip Mukerjea, who represented India at the Davis Cup from 1960 to 1972 was an exceptional tennis player. His win-loss record at the tournament stood at 62-35, with 39 singles ties and 23 doubles ties won. Drafted as a last-minute replacement for Ramanathan Krishnan in 1960 against Indonesia, Mukerjea went on to win his match against Karalok in a thrilling 5 setter.
Mukerjea, along with Ramanathan Krishnan and Premjit Lall, was responsible for carrying India to the Inter-Zone finals for three years, from 1960 to 1963, and also in 1968. He also played in the Davis Cup Challenge round final against Australia where India were beaten 4-1. In that final, Mukerjea partnered with Krishnan to record India’s only win to beat the talented Aussie duo, John Newcombe and Tony Roche in an enthusiastic 4-setter.
His most famous victories came against Ingo Budding and German No. 1 Wilhelm Bungert in an inter-zone semifinal tie against Germany in 1966, which were against significantly tougher opposition.
Due to his success, he was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1966.
#2 Ramanathan Krishnan
With a 69-28 overall win-loss record, Ramanathan Krishnan was an integral part of the Indian Davis Cup team from 1953 to 1975. With the most number of singles ties won for India with 50 wins, Krishnan proved that he was an adept tennis player.
In 1966, in the Davis Cup semifinals against Brazil, both the visitors and India were tied at 2 wins each. It was up to Ramanathan Krishnan to win his match against then World No. 12 Thomas Koch. With Koch leading with 2 sets to 1, and being 5-2 up in the fourth, it looked all but over for India.
But Krishnan had other plans in mind, and in what was a most remarkable comeback, he won the set 7-5, and then the match to launch India into the final, where they lost 4-1 to Australia. In the same year, he also defeated Wilhelm Bungert of West Germany, who was a Wimbledon finalist that year.
His other noteworthy wins in the Davis Cup were the ones against Rod Laver (1959, in an away tie), Chuck McKinley and Whitney Reed of the US (both in 1961) and Juan Gisbert of Spain (1965).
The last time Krishnan played in the Davis Cup was in a 5-0 drubbing of Thailand.
#1 Leander Paes
India’s most capped player at the Davis Cup, Leander Paes has played a total of 51 ties over the course of 24 years. His win-loss record, inclusive of both singles and doubles, stands at 89-32, also making him the player with the most number of wins from the Indian contingent.
Paes started his Davis Cup career at the tender age of 16, partnering Zeeshan Ali in doubles to beat Japan in a brutal 5-set encounter in 1990. He was an important part of the Indian team which reached the semifinals of the 1993 tournament, beating Switzerland and France, only to falter against Australia.
Not known for his singles prowess on the ATP circuit, Paes always managed to bring the best when he played singles for India.
His notable singles wins include the ones against then World No. 13 Wayne Ferreira in straight sets on grass and against former World No. 7 Goran Ivaniševi, also on grass, in 1994 and 1995 respectively.
His doubles pairing with Mahesh Bhupathi saw them stand at an impressive 25-2 win-loss record. Having been an important part of Indian Davis Cup team for a long time, Paes definitely deserves to be on this list.