It’s time that India starts talking about singles than relishing the doubles Grand Slam titles, says Mahesh Bhupathi, who reckons that the game of tennis, for an exciting future in country, needs at least 10 singles players in top-100.
India has produced only four Grand Slam winners but all in doubles. Bhupathi is the second-most successful Indian tennis player with 12 Major trophies. Only Leander Paes (18) has won more.
India’s Davis Cup captain said even if India wins any more doubles Grand Slam title, it won’t make much of an impact and what is required is consistent success in the singles main draws at big tournaments. “Do you really want people to win doubles Grand Slams? We have won like 30 of them. I think it’s time to start talking about singles. I don’t think anybody will get excited if anybody wins anymore doubles Grand Slams,” Bhupathi said.
“Between Leander, Sania, me and Rohan, we have got 30-35 Grand Slams. It’s time for people to start winning in the singles Grand Slams main draw.”
Sania Mirza has won six Major trophies over the years while Bopanna won a mixed doubles at French Open in 2017 with Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski.
India’s top-ranked singles player at the moment is Prajnesh Gunneswaran who is world number 109, while Ramkumar Ramanthan ranked is world number 131.
In the women’s singles Ankita Raina is placed 203 but is likely to rise to 168 after title win in Singapore last week while Karman Kaur Thandi is ranked 205, after achieving a career high 196 last year. “If the future holds good for any sport, you need 10-15 players. Like in badminton you have 10 players in top-100. So the future is good for that sport.
“Here we have one boy breaking into top 100 and one girl breaking into top 200. So the future is not good. Prajnesh is going to break into the top-100 in a few weeks. Ram is close to breaking into top-100. Only these two boys are in the right direction,” the 44-year-old said.
Bhupathi may not be on friendly terms with Paes but says his former partner still has fire and hunger to succeed and will be in mix for Tokyo Olympics.
The 1996 Olympics bronze medalist Paes, who already has the record of being the only tennis player to feature in seven editions of the Games, will be 47 come Tokyo 2020.
“He’s very hungry and you can see the motivation when he played in Pune (Tata Open Maharashta) and in Australian Open. He’s still got a lot of fire left in him. I think he will play the next Olympics for sure.”
“He’s got a great chance. But it depends on his ranking. Whoever is ranked highest will make it. There’s no doubt about it. The cutoff for the Olympics is very high.”
Bhupathi further said Sania would also aim to play mixed doubles at Tokyo Games with Bopanna.
“There’s a strong chance that Sania is coming back by the end of this year. Hopefully Sania and Rohan will play mixed again. We all wish to see her back obviously. Because she was the flagbearer for Indian tennis.
“I met Sania last week. I know she’s thinking about it. But it’s going to take five or six months’ of work. So let’s see how it goes.
“It’s obviously very difficult. But if you make up your mind and put in the hard work, anything is possible,” he said citing example of Serena Williams who made a quarterfinal exit at the Australian Open.
Jakarta Asian Games gold medal winning Indian doubles pair of Bopanna and Divij Sharan is on a high after winning at the Pune ATP earlier this month and Bhupathi feels they will get one point for India in the Davis Cup tie against Italy.
“They have been playing well, already won a tournament this year. Doubles is always an important game in Davis Cup. We are hoping that we win that point. They both are on a high.”
Excited to see the old versus new battle in international tennis, Bhupathi also spoke of the Big Four and said Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal would remain a force for some time, even as he did not write off Roger Federer.
“Djokovic and Nadal are going to be there for a few years, don’t worry. Roger is still there. He won the Australian Open last year. So let’s not discount him. If you want to write him off, please do it at your own risk.”
“Andy (Murray) is struggling with injuries but that’s part of professional sport. Now you have got (Alexander) Zverev and (Stefanos) Tsitispas, so there’s a lot of new boys. So it’s old versus the new. It’s good for tennis.”
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