Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

All posts regarding past greats should be made under this heading.

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VReddy
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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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punarayan wrote: Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:21 pm Vreddy, Thanks for a great interview - loved it. Thrilled you asked her about her writing the next Great American Novel, which I talked to her about at the USO.
Yes! She did remember that! I didn't ask her more as I had asked for 30 mins but had already taken up 45 mins by then :(


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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S_K_S wrote: Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:25 pm Thanks for the interview. I have to be honest and say I didn't know about her so a really interesting read. I wonder if things would have been different if her dad had accepted the Bollettieri academy offer.
True. Or even during the Pete Fischer stage where he had high regard for her.


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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I loved how philosophical she sounded even after realizing that she missed out on being a tennis great. I didn't sense an ounce of bitterness when she said things like, "I wish things were a bit more structured"...or, "I wish my parents had better exposure and long-term vision" (on not listening to the idea of switching to one-handed backhand). She really embraced life and is clearly celebrating it. Now I like her even more than before!

Very personable posts like this is what makes this forum addictive. Thank you so much for all the pain, Vishnu. I look forward to many more of these in future! No pressure, though :)

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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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Wonderfully insightful interview, Vishnu (VReddy). I didn't realise that she basically depended just on her parents' encouragement (and funding), and practising with her elder brother to make it as a tennis pro! No formal coaching, no real structure, all pure talent!
She had told me that it all happened too quickly, but Vishnu was able to draw out what that really meant. After making R2 of the US Open at the age of 15 (an unimaginably amazing achievement) and having beaten Monica Seles in the junior Orange Bowl final a few months earlier, Laxmi made the decision to go to Stanford -- hoping both to play tennis and pursue a solid degree. But the pressures of the latter affected her tennis in the first year at college (causing depression, which probably needed to have been addressed proactively). It is very difficult for a front-runner who is winning everything -- and has played in the US Open main draw (implying that she is expected to beat nearly everyone in college tennis) -- to suddenly find herself losing a lot of matches to mere college players. Like all good Indian students, she prioritized her studies at one of the world's great universities, and so didn't really capitalise on her spectacular tennis talent.
She clearly has no regrets, only happy memories of playing with the likes of Jennifer Capriati and Andre Agassi (among the talented teenagers from California during her time). The amazing talent she had is worth celebrating, and hopefully her daughter will inherit her sporting genes and become a star in some sport: we can be sure that Laxmi will know how to maximise her talent if she shows enough of it. Her advice not to specialise in one thing too much is perhaps pertinent for kids until about 12 -- after which one does need to specialise to make it as a pro (in my opinion). Jaideep Mukerjea and Anand Amritraj were among our tennis players who were multi-talented in sports -- and Chuni Goswami and Nandu Natekar played tennis as a second or third sport (Nandu famously losing the junior national tennis final to Krish Sr), while Chuni's second sport (after football, where he won an Asiad gold among others) was cricket (99 and several wickets in a Ranji final) while he was a national quality tennis player too. But that is rarer in today's world, where specialisation is required earlier.


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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Thanks Vishnu for such an in-depth interview. You did an amazing job! Thanks for getting my question in! I can't believe she got to play at that level with the coaching that she had (or not). Just makes me wonder how many of our talented boys and girls don't get to rise up because of the lack of proper coaching and structure.

Btw, you should write a book too :).


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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PKB, keep your gems coming! I learn something new every time you post!!


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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PKBasu wrote: Sat Dec 09, 2017 3:42 am Laxmi made the decision to go to Stanford -- hoping both to play tennis and pursue a solid degree. But the pressures of the latter affected her tennis in the first year at college (causing depression, which probably needed to have been addressed proactively). It is very difficult for a front-runner who is winning everything -- and has played in the US Open main draw (implying that she is expected to beat nearly everyone in college tennis) -- to suddenly find herself losing a lot of matches to mere college players. Like all good Indian students, she prioritized her studies at one of the world's great universities, and so didn't really capitalise on her spectacular tennis talent.
This is a mistake imho. I know a bit about that college and generally about US colleges. There is no way to do these together. I guess you can be in the tennis team and improve your skills and bide your time. Then, after graduating you have to make the big jump. My advice to someone I know in a different sport is to take a year off say between high school and college or even between years in college if your parents or you can afford it. Train and play with full focus and see how far you can go. The university will always be there and if you are smart enough to get into a good college, you will be able to do well after a year or even after a decade when you are done with your professional career.


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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prasen9 wrote: Sun Dec 10, 2017 1:49 amThis is a mistake imho. I know a bit about that college and generally about US colleges. There is no way to do these together.
True, but I guess there are exceptions. Harsh Mankad did manage to get a 3.50 GPA and be in the academic honors list for Economics, even when he was becoming the #1 college player. He was a pretty organized guy with a good brain, I guess... Not the norm, and very tough to do.


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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I think Somdev & Sanam did pretty well in academics, too. Not just getting a mere degree.

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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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Didn't know where to write but just read, Maggie Amritraj passed away. She was 92. Mother of Anand, Vijay and Ashok Amritraj. Unfortunately, I never read a lot about her but from what I read, it was pretty inspiring. Didn't know she was instrumental in running of BAT.


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

Post by suresh »

Omkara wrote: Sat Apr 20, 2019 4:09 pm Didn't know where to write but just read, Maggie Amritraj passed away. She was 92. Mother of Anand, Vijay and Ashok Amritraj. Unfortunately, I never read a lot about her but from what I read, it was pretty inspiring. Didn't know she was instrumental in running of BAT.
Sad to hear the news. She was the engine behind the success of Vijay and Anand is what I heard first-hand. My father-in-law was a teacher at their school in Chennai. With his help, she got the school to give them time off to go to competitions. My father-in-law promised to the school that he would personally help them catch up on their studies. When Vishwanathan Anand came along, then the same arrangement worked for him!


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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Maggie Amritraj was absolutely instrumental in making all three sons into world class tennis players. Given that she produced 3 world-class players, she is surely the most successful tennis mother in history; most of the other greats were products of their father's nurturing rather than their mother's. Jimmy Connors is the other one who owed much to his mother. (Ashok Amritraj didn't become a tennis pro for more than a year, but he too was a Wimbledon junior singles champion; Anand was a competitive singles player for a decade, and a doubles pro for 20 years, while Vijay was India's best player in the Open era, who played 17 consecutive years in the Wimbledon main draw). RIP.


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Re: Golden Stars of Indian Tennis

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Somebody (a tennis parent in the US) asked me to write a brief history of Indian tennis for her tennis-playing son's school project, and this is what I came up with:

"
Tennis began to be played in India during the 19th century, primarily in the clubs established by and for the British colonialists. It spread gradually among Indians by early in the 20th century, initially mainly among the elites, but the first Indians were playing at Wimbledon by 1907, when S. Nihal Singh became the first to play in the singles main draw. He made the third round of singles in 1910. In 1925, there were 3 Indians who made the fourth round (last-16) of the Wimbledon singles -- one a Hindu, one a Muslim, one a Christian, nicely representing the religious diversity of India!

India began to play in the Davis Cup in 1921, and made the semifinals of the world group that year (beating France 4-1 in the quarterfinal). Since then, India has had a rich history in the Davis Cup, making the final (Challenge Round) in 1966, and again in 1974 -- when India was to play South Africa in the final, but refused to do so because of South Africa's racist apartheid policies. India also made the Davis Cup final in 1987, beating Australia in Australia in the semifinal, but losing badly to Sweden on indoor clay in the final.

Notable Indian tennis players have included Ramanathan Krishnan, who made the singles semifinal at Wimbledon in 1960 and 1961, and won the US Hard Court championships in 1959 (at a time when the US Championships were played on grass at Forest Hills, NY, where his best was a run to the quarterfinal). His son Ramesh Krishnan made the singles quarterfinal at the US Open in 1981 (losing in four sets to John McEnroe) and 1987, and the Wimbledon quarterfinal in 1986. Vijay Amritraj made the quarter-finals of the US Open in 1973 and 1974 and the Wimbledon singles quarterfinal in 1973 and 1980. He and his brother Anand made the Wimbledon doubles semifinal in 1977.

In more recent times, India has had more success in doubles than singles. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were both world number 1 in doubles (and, as a pair, won the French Open and Wimbledon in 1999, and were runners-up at the Australian and US Opens that year). Leander has a career Grand Slam in both Men's doubles and Mixed doubles, and Mahesh won a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles.

Among women players, Nirupama Mankad was Asian singles champion five times, and made the second round of Mixed Doubles at Wimbledon. In the 1950s, Rita Davar made the Wimbledon junior singles final in 1953, and made the second round of the women's singles in 1955. In 1988, Laxmi Poruri (born in India but a US citizen) made the second round in singles at the US Open when she was 15, but she eventually went on to Stanford and a career in business rather than tennis.

But the greatest woman tennis player India has produced is Sania Mirza, who reached the fourth round (last-16) at the US Open in 2005, and was the world's #1 women's doubles player for nearly 3 years. She won 3 Slam titles in women's doubles, and 3 in Mixed Doubles.

In the 21st century, Somdev DevVarman has been India's best male player, rising briefly to as high as #62 in the world rankings, and winning gold medals at the Asian Games and (formerly British) Commonwealth Games.

In 2019, India had one player, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who played in all four Slam singles tournaments, and Yuki Bhambri did the same in 2018. Neither was able to win a match: qualifying into the main draw was the limit of their achievement. Rohan Bopanna is a doubles specialist, who has been a Slam doubles finalist on 3 occasions, and won the 2017 French Open mixed doubles title.

That's a quick history of tennis in India. The game is popular in cities and towns across India. It remains a middle-class and elite sport, although several players from relatively poor backgrounds have emerged in recent years -- including Sumit Nagal, who took a set off Roger Federer at the US Open this year (before losing in 4 sets), and is currently ranked #129 in the world.

Traditionally, India had a lot of grass courts, and relatively fewer good clay courts. So Indians usually did better at Wimbledon, and in doubles (where good volleying and quick hands at the net are invaluable). Hard courts are now much more common than grass courts. "