The continuity of women’s singles tennis in India seemed to have turned a corner, about a decade or so ago, during the time Sania Mirza was still active in the WTA singles circuit. Justifiably, Mirza’s successes were edified into the threshold that the brightest – and keenest – prospects in Indian women’s singles had to cross to put themselves, and the country, on the roadmap of the international women’s tennis playing domain.
While Mirza’s unprecedented wave of glory has passed on to the doubles field even as it crests anew, the search for India’s next big women’s singles player is still ongoing, with no end in sight. Predominantly, however, there’s unawareness about majority of the players who constitute the singles lineup in the Indian tennis diaspora that needs to be primarily addressed.
In the order of their WTA rankings, here’s then taking a look at the country’s top-five singles players, who in turn, are also its biggest hopes lining the immediate future:
Ankita Raina: WTA Rank 268
She is only 24-years-old, but the Ahmedabad native has not only been around the sport for quite some time, but has also been ably carrying the mantle as India’s top-singles player. Raina leads India’s charge in their Fed Cup challenges. She was a part of the squad in their recently concluded Asia/Oceania Group I campaign where the team managed to pull off a huge win against Philippines in their decisive tie which helped them to consolidate their place in Group for the third consecutive year.
Although Raina has not had much of a breakthrough in any WTA event yet, she has made her mark in the ITF circuit with four singles and eight doubles titles. And again, while her current ranking puts her right on the outskirts of the top-250, Raina had peaked closer to the top-200, reaching a career-high of 222 back in November 2015.
Karman Kaur Thandi: WTA Rank 532
For those who catch up on the Indian women’s tennis action intermittently, Kaur Thandi, unlike her colleagues, is not an unfamiliar name after all. The 18-year-old, who only recently started playing in the senior Tour making an expected graduation from the Juniors, is regarded to be the find as far as India’s tennis prognostications are concerned. And, considering that her potential has been tapped into by the esteemed Mouratoglou Academy, expectations pinned on Kaur Thandi have only soared higher.
In her conversation with Scroll.in towards the end of the 2016 season, Kaur Thandi had mentioned that she was looking to break into the top-350 by the end of the first quarter in 2017. She has dropped down two spots, to the 532nd place in the WTA rankings from her previous best of 530 achieved in January this year. The slight dip in ranking, however, isn’t a deterrent for her to strive to attain her objective.
Snehadevi Reddy: WTA Rank 578
Currently ranked almost at the edge of the top-600, albeit peaking in the 449th place in August 2016, the 20-year-old Reddy is the Indian No. 3. The right-handed player plays both singles and doubles with aplomb and has four ITF titles, two each in each category, to her name.
Again, while her road in the WTA field lies muted in spite of her constancy in the ITF rung, Reddy also made her debut in the Indian Fed Cup team last week and played out two doubles rubbers against China and Japan – partnering Riya Bhatia – though the duo weren’t able to offer much resistance to the comparatively superior team strength of their opponents.
Riya Bhatia: WTA Rank 604
The third debutant to be included in India’s last Fed Cup tie, Bhatia’s career trajectory too bears striking similarity with that of her aforementioned teammates. She, too like them, is yet to make a visible crack in the WTA order even as she has two ITF title wins – one in singles and doubles each – to her claim.
The presence of the 19-year-old in the bastion of the highest ranked Indian women, nonetheless, is assertive aspect to be capitalised upon. For, it underscores the availability of younger talent to change the dim picture of the sport’s other half, greeting the Indian context at present.
Dhruthi Tatachar Venugopal: WTA Rank 618
A loss in the first qualifying round of the ITF $25,000 tournament in Orlando in January this year must have not been the start, Venugopal would have wanted for herself. But, it would have served well as an incentive for the 20-year-old to do better and bring her ranking upward, a year on since she reached her career-best at the 534th spot.
Venugopal’s career graph is quite unique among her fellow Indian peers in that she has had a relatively higher proportion of success in doubles as compared to the singles, with nine ITF doubles wins to a sole singles win.
It’s too soon to remark whether Venugopal will prefer to opt for doubles over singles, though a proclivity to do so will still mean that India will have found the successor to Mirza.
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