The Legend of Ramanathan Krishnan- First Indian to win a junior's Wimbledon title
It has been 68 years, but the memory of Ramanathan Krishnan, then a 17-year-old young boy from Madras, winning the men's singles Junior Wimbledon title has not gathered much dust in the memory of sports lovers. Fondly called the 'King of Indian Tennis' and 'Eastern Magic,' Krishnan remains the only Indian to reach the last four in the singles category in any Grand Slam Title. Krishnan became National Champion at the age of just 16 in 1953.
He reached the semi-final of the 1960 Wimbledon Tournament before bowing out after a defeat at the hands of Neale Fraser. At the zenith of his sporting career, Krishnan was ranked No. 3 in the world rankings. Since then, the only Indian that could get any close to him was Vijay Amritraj, who got as high as No. 18 in 1980.
Unable to win the Wimbledon men's title, but his records are still unbroken
Krishnan was at the peak of his career when he participated in the 1960 Wimbledon. He was the seventh seed and cruised to the semi-finals. In the round, he was defeated by Neale Fraser. Fraser later went on to win the tournament. Due to his performance, he was the fifth seed in the 1961 Wimbledon tournament. He again reached the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, Australian great Rod Laver defeated Krishnan. However, Krishnan's performance caught the world's attention.
A Player With Many Feathers In His Cap
His achievements were unprecedented for an Indian, and the newly independent country had a star to look up to. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1961 and then the Padma Shri in 1962.
No Indian tennis player has since then reached the semi-final of any Grand Slam title in any singles tournament. Also, he won 50 matches in the Davis Cup. This record, too, remains intact. In total, he won the All-India Championships a record six times and reached the finals eight times.
No mean feat
But it was not only Wimbledon where he performed well. He was regularly featured in the Davis Cup for India. Between 1955 and 1968, he took the team to finals six times. His performance in the 1966 Davis Cup finals is still considered to be the best performance by any Indian player till now.
US President George H. W. Bush's Famous Congratulatory Hug
Krishnan won the 1963 Antwerp International Championships tournament on red clay, defeating Nicola Pietrangeli in the finals. He then won the 1965 River Oaks International Tennis Tournament in Houston, Texas. The win was remarkable because he was reportedly given a hug of congratulations by future US President George H. W. Bush after the victory.
Later in 1967, Krishnan won the Antwerp International Championships on red clay for the second time beating Roy Emerson in the final. In the same year, Krishnan was awarded the Padma Bhushan.
His Unending Love For Tennis
After his retirement, he continues to be a mentor to young players at his training center in Chennai.
People Who Followed His Footprints
Indian tennis has greatly evolved since then. With technological advancement and better training routines, the game has changed both in scale and tempo. India has also seen several stars since then, Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, and Rohan Bopanna, to name a few. But Krishnan remains, arguably, the best Tennis player India has produced.