Will India ever produce a Grand Slam champion in singles?
Tennis is a global spectator sport played by millions across the globe. Ever since the British introduced the sport to Indians in the 1880s, its popularity in India has risen slowly and steadily.
Over the years, India has produced quite a few special talents in tennis, with the likes of Ramanathan Krishnan, Leander Paes and Sania Mirza achieving quite a few milestones. However, many fans find it disheartening that India has still not produced a Grand Slam singles champion.
Having gone past the age of 45, Paes’ desire to play tennis for the country is yet to subside. The legendary player has won eight doubles and 10 mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, but even after that he still wishes to improve and explore more possibilities.
Mirza, a former World No. 1 in doubles, has won six Grand Slam titles in her career. Also, Paes' one-time doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi was the first Indian to win a Grand Slam tournament, back in 1997.
However, the popularity of tennis hasn’t seen exponential growth in India, and it is likely to remain the same unless something unexpected happens in the coming years. A country of a billion people and not even a single Gram Slam Singles title in the men’s or women’s category raises a lot of questions, but the awareness and infrastructure in India also have to be taken into account.
Tennis being a physically, mentally, and financially demanding sport, takes a lot out of its players. You have to push yourself to the absolute limit in order to feature in the world's top rankings. And for Indian players there are a host of specific problems that need to be tackled before they can realize their tennis dream.
In a sport like tennis, fitness is of prime importance, and that's where many Indians have fallen short. There have been several players who tried to put India on the world map in the singles arena before injuries took a toll on their careers.
Secondly, there is a crippling shortage of tennis academies in the nation. Schools are not encouraged to have tennis courts along with cricket and football grounds, which means there are very few places where youngsters can play the sport.
Furthermore, the dearth of professional tournaments in the country makes the entire scenario even more miserable. Except for the ATP 250 in Pune and a few Challengers, there is no exposure to professional tennis in India.
But how can things improve? What are the measures needed to make India a tennis-loving nation?
The primary need is obviously funding. Tennis is unarguably one of the most expensive sports in the world. For players to succeed at a higher level, private and public organizations must come forward to equip them with whole teams that take care of their mental and physical health.
Also, the Government needs to take up the responsibility to establish more tennis courts and also organize more tournaments across the nation in a bid to encourage players to participate in larger numbers.
These are just a few basic prerequisites which could help India get on the singles map of one of the most popular sports in the world. The hope among the fans is that one day an Indian will lift a Grand Slam singles trophy, and make the nation proud.