Tennis has been growing in India for the over the last decade, with no greater evidence than singles star Yuki Bhambri’s recent progress on the ATP tour. Here is a look at India’s No. 1 and his impact on his country.
Tennis popularity on the rise
A study from Sports India: Popularity and Participation of Sports in India 2012 revealed that tennis had become the third most popular sport in the country, behind cricket and football (soccer, for our American readers).
Research involved showed that 44% of Indians followed tennis. This was either on TV or in the media, watching the sport at least once a week. This makes it the second most followed sport in India. Not only that, the Grand Slam tennis tournaments are watched by 33% of the country.
The success of doubles players Leander Paes and Sania Mirza, as well as the recent rise of Yuri Bhambri, has contributed to nearly a quarter of country’s population participating in the sport.
However, a more recent article in 2017 showed that hockey and badminton had taken over tennis in the popularity rankings in the country.
Yuri Bhambri’s Tour Progress
The 25-year-old turned professional in 2008, but has began to make his mark on the tour this year. He started out in his home country, losing in the Round of 16 in Pune in three sets to World #81 Pierre-Hughes Herbert.
A week later, he battled through three qualifying rounds to make the first round of the Australian Open. His third round qualifying victory came against the experienced Canadian Peter Polansky. The current World #110 faced a tricky tie in the first round with Marcos Baghdatis. The Cypriot won 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 in just over two hours.
Bhambri brought that great form into a Challenger event in Chennai, India, as he reached the final, losing just one set. However, former World #77 Jordan Thompson overcame the Indian in three sets.
The Indian No. 1 has further improved as he battled into the second round of the Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells. The 2009 Junior Australian Open champion made his way through the qualifiers, before beating Nicholas Mahut in straight sets. Bhambri then put Indian tennis in the spotlight as he beat ninth seed Lucas Pouille 6-4 6-4. He now faces another tough test in the Round of 32 at Indian Wells, as he comes up against either Sam Querrey or Mischa Zverev.
Bright future ahead for Indian Tennis
Bhambri is not the only Indian singles hopeful. Ramkumar Ramanathan is looking like he can enter the Top 100 this year. The 23-year-old reached his highest ranking in February at #133 and has reached three Challenger finals in his career so far. Not only that, he was unlucky not to make the Australian Open first round draw, losing in the last qualifying round. Ramanathan has one notable victory already under his belt, beating World #8 Dominic Thiem at the Antalya Open in Turkey last year in straight sets.
And, of course, who can forget Somdev Devvarman? The 2007 and 2008 NCAA men’s singles champion was one of the most dominant singles players in American college tennis history. Unfortunately, he never quite translated that to success on the professional tour, though much of the uptick in tennis interest in India is likely due to his unprecedented success at the college level in America.
Bhambri also has a notable victory, getting the better of Gael Monfils (and Guildo Pella) en route to making the Citi Open quarterfinal in Washington last year. Tennis in India looks like it could be on the rise once again.
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