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Tennis has been synonymous with the names of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi since the 1990s in India, but the sport has a deeper rich history, which has allowed the nation to bask in glory on the international stage.
Recently, the fans have been treated to some memorable moments in Hangzhou as the nation rose to fifth in all-time standings of tennis medals at the 2023 Asian Games. The pair of Rohan Bopanna and Rutuja Bhosale won the gold medal in mixed doubles, while Ramkumar Ramanathan and Saketh Myneni settled for silver in men’s doubles.
As of now, India has 10 gold, seven silver, and 17 bronze medals at the continental megafest, with Somdev Devvarman winning the only gold in the men’s singles event while Sania Mirza is the lone woman to win a Singles medal, finishing runner-up at the 2006 Doha Games.
India’s Tryst with Tennis
India was a quick adopter of tennis after the British army introduced the sport to the Indians in the 1880s. The nation oversaw some great results for the next few decades before knocking on the doors of success and finally making room for themselves in the esteemed hall of world tennis.
Early introductions and pioneers
Players like BK Nehru, Sardar Nihal Singh, M Saleem, Fayzee brothers, and Jagat Mohan Lal took to the Wimbledon waters like fishes, reaching the last-16 stage at the prestigious tournament in London.
In 1939, Ghaus Mohammad became the first Indian to reach the quarter-final at Wimbledon but was defeated by eventual champion Bobby Riggs. The American won a triple that year, the men’s singles, men’s doubles with Elwood Cooke, and mixed doubles with Alice Marble.
Major milestones in Indian tennis
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, India saw its first-ever medal in tennis as Paes won the bronze medal, losing in the semi-final to gold medalist Andre Agassi.
Bhupathi became the first Indian to win a Grand Slam as he conquered the French Open 1997 mixed doubles along with Rika Hiraki.
In 1999, Bhupathi and Paes reached the final of all four Grand Slams, winning the Wimbledon and the French men’s doubles titles. While Bhupathi won the mixed doubles title at the US Open in the same year along with Ai Sugiyama, Paes did a double at Wimbledon, claiming the mixed doubles title with Lisa Raymond.
Indian Aces on the Global Court
Bhupati, Paes, and Mirza have been the most successful tennis players to represent India, and all three aces have won multiple grand slams and have finished runners-up on numerous occasions as well.
Profiles of top Indian tennis players
When Paes burst onto the scene and won the gold medal at the 1994 Asian Games alongside Gaurav Netakar, no one would have imagined so many grand slams to be pocketed over the next few years.
With world-renowned players like Agassi, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal ruling the roost for the entirety of his career, the Calcutta-born player switched his game to suit the Doubles style and made several records in men’s doubles and mixed doubles.
Winning eight men’s doubles and ten mixed doubles events at Grand Slams, Paes also holds the record for most wins in doubles matches in Davis Cup history. He has a career grand slam in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles, one of the three men to achieve the feat in the Open Era.
Paes also became the first Asian to win a tennis medal at the Olympic games and is the first player to win the Wimbledon in three different decades since Rod Laver. Reaching all four Grand Slam finals in 1999 alongside Bhupathi was a rare feat, and Paes has overall 34 Grand Slam Ffnal appearances, the second-highest for all time in male players.
Mirza is also a former Doubles World No. 1 player, winning three mixed doubles and three women’s doubles titles in Grand Slams. The Mumbai-born athlete was the shining star of Indian tennis between 2003 and 2013, defeating several top women tennis singles players, but a wrist injury forced her to retort to doubles, where she had already won the French Open mixed doubles alongside Bhupathi in 2009 and 2012. At the 2014 US Open, Mirza won the mixed doubles title with Bruno Soares.
In women’s doubles, Mirza won all the titles, with Martina Hingis bagging the 2015 Wimbledon, 2015 US Open, and 2016 Australian Open.
The significance of Grand Slams for India
India has always had a love affair with the Wimbledon Championships since time immemorial. Since Paes helped India get a whiff of the Grand Slam title in 1997, the nation has been addicted to winning the Grand Slams, completing the feat a total of 30 times.
India’s performance in major tournaments
Like football, tennis also got a big boost post-independence as India finished second in the Davis Cup thrice in 1966, 1974, and 1987.
At the 1966 Davis Cup, Ramanathan Krishnan and Jaidip Mukerjea defeated the 1965 Wimbledon men’s doubles champions Tony Roche and John Newcombe. Krishnan was also seeded fourth at the 1962 Wimbledon Championships.
At the 1974 Davis Cup, India defeated the Soviet Union 3-1 in the semi-final courtesy of super shows from Vijay Amritraj and Anand Amritraj, but the final was called off due to the apartheid policies of eventual champions South Africa.
Vijay also led India to the 1987 Davis Cup final, winning on grass courts along with Ramesh Krishnan, son of Ramanathan. However, the final was played on a clay court in Sweden, where the hosts became champions.
Betting Strategies for Tennis Enthusiasts
In tennis, the bettor can place their wager on several entities beginning with either player according to the odds on offer for both competitors or all four participants in the case of doubles matches.
Handicaps and the final correct score are two more options for tennis enthusiasts, along with the total score of either player or both players.
Whether the tiebreak will be played or not is also a popular bet in the modern era.
Understanding player form and dynamics
To bet on a certain world superstar is always a safe bet, as seen in the case of punters who place their wagers in favour of Nadal at the French Open as they usually experience an improvement in terms of wealth.
To bet against a fierce player Carlos Alcaraz is always tough, as seen in the recent Wimbledon final as the underdog trumped Novak Djokovic, making a big profit for some in the tennis betting world while most of the bettors were in despair at the end of the match.
Tips for informed tennis betting
For one to maximize their returns, they should understand that no player’s purple patch keeps running on for the entirety of a particular season and should place their bets after considering the surface, the opponent, and the predicted weather conditions that would be severely affecting the play.