Can India produce a singles Grand Slam champion in tennis?

Somdev Devvarman: India's highest ranked men's player in the ATP Tour.

Somdev Devvarman: India’s highest ranked men’s player on the ATP Tour.

Tennis, long considered to be a sport of the elite, is starting to make its presence felt in India. We are seeing many academies coming up now, which train young kids. The rising wealth of the Indian middle class has made the game more accessible to them. In these changing times, hope has risen that India can see its own tennis champion in the coming future.

However, it is still a distant dream only. If we look at tennis champions across the ages, most of them belong to either Australia, Europe or North America. Asia still hasn’t had a men’s singles champion in tennis, with Li Na of China being the only female tennis player to win a singles Grand Slam.

The obvious reason that comes to mind is that Asian people are genetically shorter and smaller compared to the Westerners and serving efficiently with power over the net becomes an issue. However with proper diet and training from a young age, the Asian players may reach a suitable height and gain good strength to play tennis and compete with the European and American players.

If we look at the great Indian singles players over the years, Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan did superbly well in their singles careers. Ramanathan Krishnan achieved a career high singles ranking of no. 3 in the world, while also playing at two consecutive semifinals at Wimbledon in 1960 and 1961. After him, Vijay Amritraj enjoyed good success in the Open era, reaching a career high ranking of no.16. He also beat many great players in their prime, including John McEnroe in 1984 when he was playing at his peak.

All these three players competed and beat the top singles players of their generation few times and brought glory for India.However, none of these players could take the next step to win a singles Grand Slam for the country. Stamina and fitness were major issues for these players which prevented them from reaching greater heights.

For India to produce a Grand Slam singles champion, we need to first of all improve the quality of training provided by academies existing currently. Focus needs to be given on all aspects of player’s development including diet, training methods, teaching of basics, exposure to good level competition and mental training related to sports.

Boris Becker had commented earlier this year that in individual sports it is lonely at the top, and Indian youngsters need to be taught to cope with that at an early age. “It is lonely out there at the top. To succeed, it demands a certain mentality of how to do it alone and it has to be taught at a very young age” said Becker.

Becker said that Indians are good at team sports and a change in mindset is required to produce individual champions.”You have some of the best doubles player in tennis. You are very good in cricket, which is again a team sport. But tennis is an individual sport and you need that mindset, of doing it alone to have champions,” said the six-time Grand Slam singles title winner.

One positive thing for India is that the mindset of people towards sports has started to change in the last few years. More and more middle and upper class people are sending their kids into sports. The increased financial security with rising pay opportunities for sportsmen has also contributed towards this change. In tennis also, the players who play at state and national levels get paid more than those in the 1990s.

All these are good indicators, but the governing body for tennis in India, AITF, has to take steps to ensure spread of good academies across the country, get good coaches from abroad to train the youngsters and organize talent searches across the country to find potential tennis talents. Only then we can see a future Indian Grand Slam champion in singles. The road ahead is long and full of challenges, but sincere effort can make the dream into a reality.

Rafael Nadal and wife Maria Francisca Perello spotted with infant son. click here for pictures.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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