Can a Gopichand take Indian tennis to the next level?

By Sridhar Banerjee

Photo Credit: Eastern Eye

Jaideep Mukherjea, Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza.. – thinking beyond these names when it comes to global presence of their achievement is somewhat generating undue duress on our association areas of our Cortex in the cerebral anatomy!! And, interestingly these names have never figured in a grand slam singles final (Wimblendon, French Open, US Open and Australian Open) champions apart. The only Indian to have made it to a slam semifinal was Ramanathan Krishnan when he reached Wimblendon semis on two consecutive occasions in 1960 and 1961. However, we are still way too far in stamping any authority whatsoever globally. Our No.1 Men’s and Women’s singles stars are Yuki Bhambri and Ankita Raina currently ranked at 119 (ATP ranking) and 260 (WTA ranking) respectively. Yuki is the lone Indian to have made it to the year’s 1st grandslam’s main draw (Australian Open) only to have succumbed to Marcos Baghdatis, a Cypriot raised in a nation where close to 1.17 million people dwell in (As per 2016 census data of Cyprus). Ankita has never featured in a grand slam’s main singles draw till date!

However, our shuttlers took off from a handful of glories surrounded by the likes of Prakash Padukone and Pullella Gopichand. It’s been a decade during which we have seen a host of men and women shuttlers featuring in top 10. Saina Nehwal, P V Sindhu, Kidambi Srikant have consistently done well in Super Series (premiere events in Badminton). Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu have won medals in 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics respectively. Srikant has triumphed 7 superseries titles with five of them coming in 2017.

There was no dearth in terms of improved infrastructure and stars involving themselves in setting up academies in both of the sports. Vijay Amritraj’s Tennis Academy, Sania Mirza Tennis Academy, GVK Tennis Academy, Jaideep Mukherjea Tennis Academy, Zeeshan Ali Tennis Academy are few of the illuminated and cash-rich tennis academies in our country. Wherein a one-man-stop, Pullella Gopichand Badminton Academy, is breeding stars after stars ever since its inception back in 2008. Badminton, a sports with less than 1/5th of the prize money offered by a premiere tennis tournament, never had the red carpet laid for best of the infrastructures to groom our promising shuttlers enough and face challenges of the menacing and dominating agility of the Chinese!! However, Gopichand has metamorphosed Indian badminton and is not only instrumental in running the world’s most sought-after academy but also coaching the Indian national team in all of the mega events including Olympics.

Well, as a sports enthusiast who loves basking in the glory of the success of Indian sports, would it be a tough ask to have Gopichands in other individual sports like tennis? Hope that our dormant desire soon becomes a reality!!!