As Serena Williams and Roger Federer dominated Wimbledon discussion at the weekend, there was a big India flavour at the hallowed grasscourts. Leander Paes and Sania Mirza, with Swiss former world No 1 Martina Hingis as the significant common link, claimed the mixed and women’s doubles titles respectively. The 17-year-old Sumit Nagal then raised hopes for the future by winning the boys’ doubles title with his Vietnamese partner.
For Paes, who celebrated his 42nd birthday last month, the 16th Grand Slam title is a tribute to his fitness and motivation 25 years into his professional career. Having also won the Australian Open mixed title with Hingis, the pair wrapped up the Wimbledon title without dropping a set.
Paes is also conscious of his place in Indian tennis history. He wants to achieve more and his next big target is the Rio Olympics — it would be his record seventh. He has changed training methods over the years to keep pace with younger and more powerful rivals. The milestone man achieved 700 doubles wins earlier in the season, and had become the oldest man to win a Grand Slam at the 2013 US Open.
Mirza, whose injury-prone body played an important role in her switching to doubles to prolong her career, had won the maiden junior doubles Slam at Wimbledon in 2003. She has three mixed doubles Grand Slam titles too, but the latest win makes her the first Indian woman to win a title at Wimbledon and become the first to clinch a Grand Slam women’s doubles.
While these victories spread good cheer, the absence of any Indian player in the upper echelons of the singles provides a sobering thought. The last ATP singles title by an Indian came 17 years ago — Paes in New Port, 1998 — while Mirza is the only ever Indian WTA singles winner — Hyderabad Open, 2005. Nagal, who became the first Indian since Mirza to win a junior Wimbledon title, is considered a good prospect, but the bigger challenge lies ahead as he will move into the senior ranks.
Read: Wimbledon: Sania Mirza-Martina Hingis win women's doubles title