Though the national sport remains cricket, tennis became a popular sport in India around the 1880s. This was when British army officers introduced it to the country.
As enthusiasm grew, so did the tournaments. Events like the Punjab Lawn Tennis, All India Tennis, and Bengal Lawn Tennis Championships were organized. Since that time, India has consistently had a strong showing in the Davis Cup, Asian Games, and the Commonwealth Games.
Even though there have been several players to win major opens in doubles play, one of their top professionals, Rohan Bopanna, states India has room for improvement in the world of tennis. Bopanna said, “We don’t have a system in place to generate that many players. We need good academies and rigorous coaches.”
However, even with the obstacles, it’s clear from the performances of these 10 players that India has historically turned out some top level competitors.
Here are the 10 best Indian players in tennis history:
10. Prajnesh Gunneswaran
Born in Chennai, India on November 22, 1989, Gunneswaran reached his highest ranking in 2019 at a very respectable 75. He began his career at the junior level, where he won the national title each year, in every age group from 12 to 18.
Considered the “next big thing” in the tennis world, he was well known. So much so that he was offered a scholarship to Harvard University, turning it down to attend the University of Tennessee for its higher NCAA ranking.
Gunneswaran then dropped out to turn pro in 2010. He has competed at Wimbledon, and the French, U.S., and Australian Opens. In 2018, Gunneswaran took home a bronze medal in the singles division of the Asian games. Thus far, he’s earned almost a million dollars in prize money.
Amritraj j was born on March 20, 1951 in Madra, India. Along with his brother Vijay, Anand led India to the 1974 Davis Cup finals against South Africa. He was also a part of the team that reached the finals in 1987.
During his career, Amritraj won 7 singles titles across the Indian and Asian circuits. In the doubles category, Anand earned 12 titles. He made it to the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 1976 and the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open in 1973 and 1976. He reached his highest rank of 80 in 1984. The total prize money won during his professional career was $332,000.
Aside from his brother, tennis runs in the Amritraj family. Anand’s son, Stephen, is a former professional tennis player and his daughter in law, Alison Riske, is ranked in the top 50 by the Women’s Tennis Association.
Presently a tennis coach, Ramesh Krishnan was born on June 5, 1978. He started his professional career on the juniors circuit in 1978. The next year, he won the juniors singles championship at both Wimbledon and the French Open. In 1981, he won the ATP singles championship in Manila, Phillipines.
Throughout his professional career, Ramesh captured 8 titles. In 1985, he attained his highest ranking of 23. This opened the door for him to compete in the U.S. Open in 1981 and 1987, where he reached the quarter finals each time. Krishnan went on to play for team India in the 1993 Olympics.
Upon his retirement from tennis in 1993, the tennis whiz had amassed over $1.2 million dollars in prize money. Currently, Ramesh Krishnan runs a tennis academy in Chennai, India.
Devvarman was born in Guwahati, India on February 13, 1985. He attended the University of Virginia in the United States. It was here that he became well known as the only college player to make it to 3 finals in a row in the NCAA. In addition, his college record of 44 wins and 1 loss in 2008 was never before seen.
Devvarman turned pro in 2008 and has played in all 4 major opens, but struggled to make it past the second round. He did take home a gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth games and 2 gold and a bronze in the 2010 Asian games. His highest ranking was 62nd, in 2011.
At the time of his retirement in 2017, Somdev Devvarman had accumulated $1.45 million in prize money. Recently, he signed on to be a high performance coach with the prestigious Nensel Tennis Academy in Germany.
Born on March 4, 1980, in Bangladore, India, Rohan Bopanna is one of the most outspoken of the top tennis players in India. He is constantly advocating for professionals and beginners. Calling for fairness and equity in the game. He backs it with his superior skills.
Over the course of his career, he has won 22 titles. He was ranked number 213 in singles play, but number 3 on the doubles circuit. Bopanna made it to the finals of all four major opens in 2006 and 2007. In 2017, he won the French Open in the mixed doubles category. He represented India in the 2016 Olympic Games and won a gold medal in the 2018 Asian games.
Consistently winning masters tournaments across Europe, Rohan earned almost $5 million at the time of his retirement. Bopanna has been a recipient of the prestigious Arthur Ashe humanitarian award for his “stop war, start tennis” campaign. A true humanitarian, Bopanna also raises funds for a school in India for students with physical disabilities.
Born April 11, 1937 in Madras, India, Krishnan was one of the world’s top tennis players during the 1950s and 1960s. As an amateur, Ramanthan was ranked number 3 in the world.
He went professional in 1953. In 1957 and 1959, he made it to the quarter finals of the U.S. Open. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, Krishman made it to the quarter finals at Wimbledon. A key to leading India to the challenge round in the 1966 Davis Cup. In 1968, he won the Canadian Open in the doubles category.
Over the course of his career, he won 55 titles across Asia and Europe. Including the All Indian Championship a total of 6 times. Retiring from professional tennis in 1975, today he runs a tennis academy with his son.
Vijay Amritraj was one of the first Indian tennis players to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (2022). He was born in Chennai, India on December 14, 1953. His brother, Anand, came in at number 9 on this list.
The Indian tennis legend attained his highest ranking of 18 in the singles category in 1980. He holds a total of 29 titles,15 in singles play and 14 in doubles. As a singles player, Amritraj made it to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1973, 1974,and 1981. On the doubles circuit, Vijay made it to the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 1976. In the Davis Cup finals in 1974 and 1987, he was instrumental in leading his team.
Over the course of his career, Amritraj won over $1.3 million in prize money. Today, Vijay is a sports commentator and is the owner of a multimedia company.
Born in Chennai, India in 1974, Bhupathi was the first player from India to win the Australian Open in the mixed doubles category. He is one of only 8 players to have won a grand slam in the mixed doubles as well.
Turning pro in 1996, Mahesh won a total of 52 titles. In addition to multiple medals in the Asian and Commonwealth games through the years, he also participated in the 2004 Olympics. In 1999, he reached the coveted number one ranking in the sport.
Often pairing with another top player, Leander Paes, he has competed at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the French Open in the doubles category. Upon his retirement in 2016, he earned $6.6 million in prize money. Mahesh Bhupathi is the founder of the International Premier Tennis League.
2. Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza is one of the best and most recognized players in the Indian tennis world. Born in Bombay, India, on November 15, 1986, Mirza was the number 1 ranked female tennis player for doubles in India from 2003 until her retirement in 2013. In addition, she was ranked 27th overall.
Over the course of her illustrious career, Mirza won 18 Grand Slams in the doubles and mixed doubles categories, 8 medals in the Asian games. Sania is one of only two Indian women to win a WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) title. In total, she has 46 titles, in doubles and mixed doubles. She competed in the 2008 Olympic games.
In 2007, she was named among the top 50 heroes of Asia by Time magazine. During the course of her career, she won an amazing $7.2 million. Currently, this popular retired player is living in Dubai, raising her children and is planning a reality show with her family.
1. Leander Paes
Born in Calcutta, India on June 17, 1973, Leander Paes is considered the best Indian tennis player of all time. He holds the record for most Davis Cup wins, with 8 doubles victories and 10 mixed doubles crowns.
Leander is one of only two men to hold Wimbledon titles in 3 different decades. Paes won the titles in 1999, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2910,2013, and 2015. In addition to Wimbledon, he won the Australian Open in 2003, 2010, 2012, and 2015, the French Open in 1999, 2001, and 2009. The U.S. Open was also claimed by Paes in 2006, 2009, and 2013.
In 1996, he took home a bronze medal in the Olympics. All together, Leander Paes holds 54 titles and claimed an astounding $8.5 million in cash prizes. Though he retired in 2021, he remains active in the tennis world as an ambassador for the sport. He has also thrown his hat into the political ring, running for office in his hometown.
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