Tennis

Paes’ bronze, but little else

Paes during the bronze medal match.  

The spirit of tennis has long straddled the conflicting worlds of nationalism and globalism. While the Davis Cup held a special place, many top players prioritised Grand Slams that brought individual glory and had global appeal. Tennis, in fact, was reintroduced as a medal-winning discipline at the Olympics only in 1988, after a gap of 64 years.

But for Indians, tennis has long been a source of national pride, riding on the exploits of the Krishnans (Ramanathan & Ramesh), Amritrajs (Anand and Vijay) and the rest. In this, Leander Paes’ singles bronze from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics ranks high. It was independent India’s second individual medal, ending a 44-year drought after K.D. Jadhav’s bronze (wrestling, Helsinki 1952).

Paes beat a top-10 player in Thomas Enqvist, ruptured tendons in the wrist in the semifinal loss to Andre Agassi and fought back from a set down against Fernando Meligeni of Brazil in the playoff to bag the historic medal.

But for that, India has had little success. There hasn’t been a singles match win since Paes’ effort and his famed partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi across four Olympics didn’t fetch a single medal. The closest was at Athens 2004, but the duo lost a marathon bronze medal playoff to Croatia’s Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic.

The nation’s best chance was at London 2012, when it had Paes, Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna in the top-20. But it will be best remembered for off-court bickering and a clash of egos.

Bopanna and Sania Mirza narrowly missed out at Rio 2016, losing the mixed-doubles semifinal against Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram in a match-tiebreak before being defeated in the bronze medal playoff by Czech Republic’s Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 8:57:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/paes-bronze-but-little-else/article35433659.ece

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