The state of tennis in India is observing a paradigm shift. It is a known fact the world tennis is still being dominated by the big three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Indian tennis players by the virtue of some good training facilities, nutrition and coaches are making a name themselves. Let’s have a look at some of the top Indian tennis players in the professional circuit at the moment :
Prajnesh Gunneswaran is one of the top ranked tennis players with a current ATP ranking of 90. The lefty from Chennai has won 8 ITF titles in singles and became the 6th Indian tennis player to win a medal in the Asian Games.
His journey to the top is nothing short of inspirational. Faced with a lot of injuries early on in his career, Prajnesh’s tennis career took a back seat as he struggled to find the right therapy that would help him break the physical barrier. With his family supporting him throughout and specially his father who is a tennis fan himself, he finally found relief in the form of his German trainer Christian Bosse which saw him spend a few years in Spain.
The Tamil Nadu lad came roaring back to the tennis circuit break into the top 100 for the first time in his career and overtake both Ramkumar Ramanathan and Yuki Bhambri to be the top ranked Indian.
“It’s surreal that I am here all of sudden. Obviously, it did not happen overnight, I have put in lot of work into it. My goals are higher than just being in top-100. This is something, which has happened on the way. I have the potential to be much higher than what I am today”, said Prajnesh in a free-wheeling chat with PTI.
2018 has been his breakthrough season on the Pro circuit. He won two Challenger titles (Anning, Bengaluru), savored a win over top-30 player Denis Shapovalov and played a key role in India’s Davis Cup win over China by winning the decisive fifth rubber against Yibing Wu.
RAMKUMAR RAMANATHAN :
Ramkumar Ramanathan is the No.2 seed in Indian Tennis ranked just behind Prajnesh Gunneswaran and has achieved a highest ATP ranking of 111. He announced himself by beating Somdev Devvarman, the then No.1 ranked Indian in the 1st round of the Chennai Open in 2014 and after winning his first ITF Futures title in Raipur he hasn’t looked back since.
He idolizes Roger Federer and just like him Ramkumar centres his game around a huge serve and big strikes on both the first and second delivery trying to take the attack to the opposition with just a big swing of his racquet.
Though he is from Chennai, he is currently based in Barcelona and trains at the Sanchez-Casai Tennis Academy on the very courts where Andy Murray used to train. He is coached by Thyagarajan Chandrasekaran (one of Leander Paes’ first coaches) in India.
The Indian is fond of football and cricket too in addition to tennis. He has even gone on record saying that he if not a tennis player, he would have been a professional cricketer. In football, he is a big supporter of Spanish club Barcelona.
Ramanathan has achieved sporadic success on the ATP tour in the last two years. In 2017 he defeated top 10 player Dominic Thiem in Antalya, before bowing out in the quarterfinals. A year later he lost to Steve Johnson in the Newport final, becoming the first Indian since Somdev Devvarman in 2011 to reach an ATP final.
Ramanathan is still very young, and many expect that his big game will earn him more upset wins in the future.
YUKI BHAMBRI :
Yuki Bhambri is an Indian tennis player who had a highly successful junior career, and who continues to set the standard for players from India. Bhambri won the Australian Open boys’ singles title in 2009, at one point he was the top ranked junior player in the world and was widely tipped to succeed at the senior Grand Slams too. With a career high ATP ranking of 83, Yuki Bhambri is one of the top Indian tennis players in theprofessional circuit.
Yuki Bhambri started playing tennis at the age of 5 following in the footsteps of his sisters Ankita and Sanaa who are also tennis players. His idols while growing up were Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Bhambri is primarily a counter puncher with his game centered around trading groundstrokes with heavy top-spin on his both forehand and backhand. Bhambri’s movement is his strongest suit, with great foot speed he can run down most shots struck by his opponents. His serve though can be a liability as he can’t generate enough power as his peers and the same goes for his forehand as well which forces him to defend more often than not.
Yuki Bhambri has been a promising tennis player for India but he has, for too long and the liking of too many, remained a star in the making. While he hasn’t done that yet, he remains one of the best Indian player on the tour right now; there is still hope that he will enjoy an upward surge in the future.
ANKITA RAINA :
India’s tennis ace Ankita Raina is currently ranked number 1 in women’s singles in the country. Currently she is ranked 195 as per the WTA rankings and had achieved a career high of 164 earlier this year. Raina has also won a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games and has been a regular at the Fed Cup with over half a dozen appearances.
Ankita started playing tennis at the age of 5 and got her big break when she, an 8 year old, beat a 14 year old at the Future Kids competition. Her idols growing up were Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Sania Mirza. Raina likes to dictate the game from the baseline who relies on her speed and counter-punching abilities to outlast opponents. With her baseline consistency being her greatest strength she can go toe to toe with almost any player but it is her second serve that gives her the most advantage. She has a good kick serve which can open up the court for an easy winner.
Her biggest weakness though is the lack of power on her groundstrokes and can get blown away by the strength of the top players. Raina is only the fifth female player from India to ever break into the top 200 of the WTA singles rankings, and she is expected to eventually break into the top 100 too.
KARMAN KAUR THANDI :
Karman Kaur Thandi is a young Indian women tennis player who has been touted to be a top level tennis player and break into the top 50 as well. At 21 she has already broken into the top 200 becoming one of the most successful women players in India.
Thandi was born in New Delhi and started playing tennis at the age of 8. She soon started dominating the U-14 and the U-16 levels and had a great run in the junior tournaments leading up to the US Open in 2015 where she beat numerous top 50 players. This made a certain Mahesh Bhupathi to take notice of her and arranged for her to train at the Mouratoglou Academy in Nice where Djokovic and Serena train as well.
With a gigantic forehand and an enormous serve Thandi has all the ingredients to become a top level player. Standing at 6ft she can generate both power and kicks on her serve and can also hit flat balls off her forehand. She has the raw power to match the top players but her movement is not her strongest suit and her backhand at best is a rally shot which lacks the speed and penetration of her forehand.
Thandi is only the sixth Indian woman to break into the top 200 of the WTA rankings, and one of the youngest to accomplish the feat. Her talent was spotted at an early age by Indian tennis legend Mahesh Bhupathi, and he continues to back her development as she looks to break new ground in her pro career.