Former Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi reckons the lack of tennis culture in India is the reason why fans shouldn’t expect solid results from the players in the coming times.
Speaking on the sidelines of the KIA Australian Open Ballkids International Program that was hosted recently in New Delhi, Bhupathi bemoaned the absence of tennis culture in the country. And as a result, he thinks, there wouldn’t be any miracles coming in from Indian tennis players any time soon.
India have produced multiple Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles champions but no singles champion yet. And Bhupathi thinks that’s not changing any time soon. He also called Leander Paes and Sania Mirza “anomalies” in terms of their results, tennis stars produced despite the system and not because of it.
And Bhupathi also said it’s not just tennis that needs a nudge in terms of investment, it’s the case with most sports.
“If you want to build champions consistently you will have to invest in the sport. It’s growing very aggressively every year which is a very positive sign but considering the length and depth of the country I think there is a long way to go and its great that a lot of corporates are getting involved now.”
Speaking about singles tennis specifically, Bhupathi had no doubt that a lot more needed to be done about it but the big question for him was who would take the lead.
Bhupathi cited the reasons why countries like Spain, Argentina and France were producing Grand Slam champions and one of them was they had many players in the top 100. He said having just a single player in the top 100 rankings wouldn’t miraculously lead to a winner and for that to happen tennis needed to be a priority.
However, he also said:
“People are still living without water, without food and without electricity, so is tennis priority, I don’t think so.”
As things stand, India doesn’t have a single representation in the top 100 in either the men’s or the women’s singles. Prajnesh Gunneswaran is currently the highest ranked Indian men’s singles player at 104 while Ankita Raina’s 213 is the best for any Indian women in singles rankings.
While Sania Mirza is more known for her doubles play currently, having won three women’s doubles and three mixed doubles titles at the Grand Slam level, she was once ranked 27th in the women’s singles rankings.