While Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna kept Indian interest at Wimbledon alive by reaching the third round of the mixed doubles event, there was disappointing news elsewhere for tennis fans across the country.
This does not come as much of a surprise. The highest-ranked Indian in the ITF junior boys rankings is 16-year-old Aman Dahiya (154), followed by 17-year-olds Nishant Dabas (155) and Chirag Duhan (200). On the junior girls’ side, only 17-year-old Nikita Vishwase is ranked inside the top 300 at No. 295.
The junior singles event at Wimbledon features a 64-player draw.
Indians have tasted success at junior Wimbledon and other events
For every successful junior who transitioned into a world-beating professional on the ATP and WTA tours, there were plenty of others unable to make the cut. Over the years, there have been several Indians who have succeeded at the junior level.
In 1954, Ramanathan Krishnan became the first Asian player to win the Wimbledon boys’ singles title.
Years later, son Ramesh followed in his father’s footsteps by winning the junior French Open and Wimbledon in 1979 and climbing to the No. 1 position in the junior rankings.
Leander Paes, who has won more Grand Slam titles than any other Indian tennis professional, was once the top-ranked junior and won the boys’ singles titles at the US Open and Wimbledon.
Six-time Grand Slam doubles champion Sania Mirza won the Wimbledon junior doubles title way back in 2003 with Alisa Kleybanova, before blazing a trail for Indian women’s tennis on the professional stage.
Yuki Bhambri was another top-rated junior. Bhambri reached the junior No. 1 spot and became the first Indian to win the junior Australian Open title in 2009. But his professional career has been ravaged by injuries and he peaked at No. 83 in the ATP rankings.
Considering the difficulties in hosting junior tournaments within the country due to the pandemic and the lack of international exposure, the future does not seem very bright for Indian tennis.