Tennis is one of the popular sports played in different parts of the world. In the India, the game is a hit amongst sport enthusiasts of all ages. The game, also called lawn tennis, has a vibrant history to boast of. Since its introduction to the country, a number of tournaments have been organized for men and women's singles, men's and women's doubles and mixed doubles matches. India has produced some of the outstanding tennis players of tennis. Given below is comprehensive information on the history of tennis in India.
Tennis Game In India
The history of tennis can be traced back to the late 19th century, when the game was played in the British nation in 1870s. After a decade, the game was brought to India by the British Army and civilian officers. Tennis tournaments were held in India, when the game was slowing picking up pace in the country. Some of the most notable tennis tournaments in the history of the game in the India include Punjab Lawn Tennis Championship held at Lahore in 1885, Bengal Lawn Tennis Championship held at Kolkata in 1887 and the All India Tennis Championships organized at Allahabad in 1910.
Emergence Of Indian Players
In the early years, when the Indians were familiarized with tennis, the British players dominated the championships. With no time, the Indian tennis players started making their presence felt at the national level. The British stranglehold was broken by veteran Indian tennis player Mohd Saleem from Lahore, who emerged victorious in the Punjab Championship in 1915. He grabbed the successive titles between 1919 and 1926. Saleem's remarkable performance inspired other Indian players to consider the game seriously. Consequently, more players began to mark their appearance. In 1917, the Bengal Championship title was won by NS Iyer. In 1919, Nagu grabbed the title at the All India Singles Tennis Championship held at the Gymkhana Club at Allahabad.
All India Lawn Tennis Association
A need for a governing body was felt during the time, when Indian tennis players continued to be dominant in the sports, at the national level. This gave rise to the birth of the All India Lawn Tennis Association (AILTA) at Lahore in 1920. The rules and regulations for tennis were formulated, keeping in mind the laws followed by the Lawn Tennis Association of Britain. In the later half of the year, the first AGM of AILTA was organized at Town Hall in Delhi, where it was decided that All India National Championships for tennis would be held at Allahabad, every year. AILTA also decided that each Province of the India should have a Provincial Association (today called State Association), which should be affiliated to it.
Some of the established names in Indian tennis, including SM Jacob, Mohd Saleem, LS Deane and AA Fayzee, went on to represent India at the prestigious Davis Cup, for the first time, in 1921. The maiden Inter Provincial Tournament was held in 1922, with Punjab Lawn Tennis Association led by Mohd Saleem. The tennis competition was held regularly held in India, until the Second World War broke out in 1939. In the tournaments held during the period before the World War, the promising players of India emerged victorious. They competed with stiff foreign competitors belonging to the 'strong nations' including France, Romania, Holland, Belgium, Spain and Greece.
Soon after the end of the Second World War, AILTA decided to organize Grass Court and Hard Court Tournaments in India, the latter being open to foreign players as well. The first Grass Court National Championship was held at Calcutta in 1946. Sumant Misra grabbed the maiden title by defeating Manmohan Lal. Thereafter, a fresh new breed of promising Indian players, including S. Misra Dilip Bose and the young Ramanathan Krishnan was introduced to the game. They captured the crown at the tournament, until 1955. Others who dominated the championship included Premjit Lal, Vijay Amritraj and Jaidip Mukerjea.
The mid 1950s turned out to be the purple patch for the Indian tennis players. Ramanathan Krishnan bagged the Junior Wimbledon Champion title in the 1950s, the first Asian to do so. Ramanathan Krishnan, Jaidip Mukherjea and Premjit Lal dominated the game in India during the 1960s. In 1962, Ramanathan Krishnan secured the fourth position at Wimbledon. The Indian players also performed well in other prestigious tournaments including the Davis Cup and the Zonal Championships. Soon, Premjit Lala and Jaidip Mukherjea won the National Doubles and Asian Doubles Championships, four times each.
Vijay Amritraj stood out from the crowd and strengthened the Indian tennis in the 1970s. With the outstanding performances of Amritraj, Shashi Menon, Jasjit Singh and Anand Amritraj, India reached the Tennis World Cup Finals in 1974. However, due to political issues, India did not play South Africa in the Finals. Vijay Amritraj made it to the Grand Slam tournaments and performed reasonably well, although he didn't win. He entered the quarterfinals of the US Open in 1973 as well as in 1981. He made it to the Wimbledon in 1973 and 1974. Vijay Amritraj was succeeded by Ramesh Krishnan, who kept India's flag flying high.
The Late 1990s
Post Krishnan era, young Indian tennis players - Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi entered the game. Leander Paes, the Junior Wimbledon and US Open Champion, pulled off some outstanding victories for India and performed well in the Davis Cup as well. He has been instrumental in India, making the country to qualify for prestigious tournaments like the Grand Slam. After partnering with Mahesh Bhupathi, Paes tasted success at the Grand Slam. The duo entered all the four Grand Slam Doubles Finals in 1999. They brought laurel to India by winning Wimbledon and US Open. Before splitting, Paes and Bhupathi maintained the NO.1 doubles pair position for a long time.
Present Day Scenario
Although Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have split and are playing with different partners, they are adding to their count of Grand Slam trophies, year by year, thereby contributing to the Indian tennis at the individual levels. The entry of Sania Mirza has breathed in fresh air to the Indian tennis. She has managed to deliver commendable performances, both at the national and international level. She has become the inspiration to the young sporting enthusiasts of the country. Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj are among the others to pick up the gauntlet and to enhance the stature of Indian tennis at the international level.