In Indian tennis, the one handed backhand is not so rare | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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In Indian tennis, the one handed backhand is not so rare

Feb 23, 2024 02:24 PM IST

As fans worldwide lament the eclipse of the single handed backhand, in India Rohan Bopanna is keeping alive a tradition that began with Ramanathan Krishnan

Dirges are being sung for the single-handed tennis backhand. For the first time since the ATP rankings started in 1973, no rebel with a one-hander will figure in the updated men’s top-10 rankings.

Rohan Bopanna in action.
Rohan Bopanna in action.

The single-handed backhand is a graceful shot, but not as safe as the double-hander. Pragmatism often beats risk in life’s key choices.

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Indian men’s tennis, however, has produced a fair number of one-handers, from Ramanathan Krishnan to man of the moment Rohan Bopanna.

Here’s a list:

Ramanathan Krishnan

Nearly all Indian players of that vintage had single-handers as they followed the classical style, predating the two-hander trend started by the likes of Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert. Krishnan’s was the most productive. It made him Asia’s first ever junior Wimbledon champion (1954) and took him to the men’s semis of a major twice. No Indian man has made the last four of a major since.

Ramesh Krishnan

Ramesh was a clone of his father Ramanathan. But he stood out more because he played at a time - the 80s and early 90s - when his father’s style was not the norm. His one-armed backhand added to the elegance of his game. Ramesh had a fine career, winning junior Wimbledon and French Open, making the quarterfinals at the majors thrice and the final of the Davis Cup. At the 1989 Australian Open, he knocked out top seed Mats Wilander, arguably the greatest singles upset by an Indian.

Vijay Amritraj

Along with a big serve and sharp volleys Amritraj had an elegant single handed backhand with which he pleased afficionados and scored victories over some of the game’s legends, such as Rod Laver, Borg, Connors and John McEnroe. He made the last eight stage at majors and was a star member of India’s Davis Cup teams that reached the final in 1974 and 1987. A man who liked to live in style, the single hander went with his image.

Leander Paes

Paes’ single-handed backhand was often the vehicle that set up volleys, his weapon. Using his great feel for the ball, Paes would either knife his backhand or chip it and rush to the net. On occasion Paes would also drive his backhand. The single-hander played a key role in the varied successes he achieved over his three-decade career – ranging from an Olympic singles bronze to big name Davis Cup upsets to eight men’s doubles majors.

Rohan Bopanna

The Australian Open men’s doubles champion is known more for his big serve but his backhand is also a weapon. Some of his winners from that flank often end up in highlight reels. One such shot happened at last year’s Barcelona Open. Covering the baseline while partner Matthew Ebden patrolled the net, Bopanna sprinted the entire width of the clay court and flicked a winner on the run past opponents Santiago González and Édouard Roger-Vasselin. Momentum carried him into the stands, where he exchanged high fives with a spectator.

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