2014 recap: A year when world tennis woke up to India
It has been a season of changes in tennis. Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic, who won the Australian Open and the US Open respectively, loosened the grip of the top four on Grand Slams and emerged as the leaders of the new world order. But as far as India is concerned, 2014 will be remembered as the year Roger Federer graced our courts.
The Swiss maestro brought serve and volley back into fashion, maybe not enough to rekindle the Grand Slam fire. But none of that mattered as he made a grand entrance into the Indian capital, New Delhi.
A few hours of mildly competitive, but entertaining, tennis is all India got from Federer but it was still a step up for most of his Indian fans who had till now only watched his magic filter down from their TV sets.
Federer, who had belatedly joined the bandwagon, was the face of the International Tennis Premier League: a venture by former Indian doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi looking to change the way tennis is consumed in this part of the world.
Not just Federer, the IPTL brought the likes of Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic, Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic to the Indian shores.
Tennis has a punishingly short off-season. But it proved to be the biggest four weeks on the Indian calendar as the country was transformed into the land of the Leagues late in the year. Once all the season’s ambitions of the top stars in the game had been packed off, they packed their bags and made the trip to Asia.
Even though the Vijay Amritraj-led Champions Tennis League lived in the shadow of the outrageously popular IPTL it had a life of its own, and brought some of the more popular stars of the game closer to home. It was a year when world tennis woke up to India.
Even though they did end up as a series of “glorified exhibitions”, as ATP chief Chris Kermode expected it to be, the buzz they generated may just be the shot of inspiration Indian tennis needed.
But before the big names burst onto the Indian stage, the one person who kept the Indian flag flying abroad was Sania Mirza. The 27-year-old won the WTA Finals, with Cara Black, to crown a sparkling three months in which she had won the US Open mixed doubles title (with Bruno Soares) and two Asian Games medals (mixed doubles gold with Saketh Myneni and women’s doubles silver with Prarthana Thombare).