India enjoyed some early success in tennis as the sport was made popular by the likes of Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan and Ramanathan Krishnan during the latter half of the 20th century.
It was the pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi that brought Grand slam glory for India at the turn of the century.
Here are some of the greatest achievements of Indian tennis players in the Grand Slam arena
Paes-Bhupathi almost won the career Grand Slam in 1999
The year was 1999, when two young Indian players made it to their first major grand slam final. The pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi went on to become India’s best team in international tennis from that moment.
The duo played their first grand slam final at the Australian Open that year, losing to Jonas Bjorkman and Patrick Rafter in a thrilling five setter. They also made it to the finals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open after their loss in Australia. The Indian pair was successful in winning the French Open and the Wimbledon that year but missed out the US Open with a loss in the finals against the pair of Sebastien Lareau and Alex O’Brien in straight sets.
Thus the pair managed two grand slam titles and were runners-up in the other two.
Leander Paes: 17 Grand Slam Titles
Paes is the most successful Indian tennis player in the grand slam era, with a record 17 titles to his name. Eight in men’s doubles and another nine in mixed doubles, including the recently accomplished US Open along with Martina Hingis.
Paes began his career in the singles arena and even managed an Olympic bronze during the 1996 Atlanta games. However, with time, Paes has evolved into a world class doubles player and one of the best that India has produced.
Mahesh Bhupathi won the first ever Grand Slam in Indian tennis history
The year was 1997 when Mahesh Bhupathi became the first Indian Grand Slam winner, as he clinched the French Open title with Rika Hiraki in mixed doubles event. Mahesh also claimed three Men’s doubles Grand slam titles in the company of fellow Indian doubles star, Leander Paes. Bhupathi also managed to win one men’s doubles title with Max Mirnyi.
In his later years, Mahesh Bhupathi was in the top ten in doubles, often in partnership with Rohan Bopanna, however Grand Slam success came in the mixed doubles event with Bhupathi ending with 8 mixed doubles crowns. Hence Mahesh Bhupathi will likely sign off his career with a total of 12 grand slams to his name.
Sania Mirza – taking Indian tennis forward
Few years ago, when Sania Mirza emerged in grand slam tennis, many hoped to see wonders from her in the singles competition. However, she could never live up to those expectations in singles and instead seems to have taken the path of greats such as Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi with increasing success in doubles.
Sania reached a career high of world no. 27 in women’s singles but failed to register a grand slam title to her name.
Trying her luck in mixed doubles, she was rewarded with three grand slam titles and her fortunes are on the upswing this year after the Wimbledon win with Hingis in women’s doubles followed by the US Open 2015 women’s doubles title.
Now, all India needs is a singles grand slam player who can create a legacy that the future tennis stars from India can follow.