Unlikely Ace

Martina Hingis could be the best thing that has happened for India’s tennis presence in years

If it were up to Indians on Twitter, Swiss tennis ace Martina Hingis would be up for the Khel Ratna award, the highest honour in India for excellence in sports. While at it, they would perhaps also like Indian citizenship and an Aadhaar card, apart from may be a couple of multi-crore ad deals, throw in for good measure. All this, of course, was said tongue firmly in cheek. But there can be no doubt that Hingis is partly responsible for India registering a few blips in the global tennis radar of late—in the just-concluded US Open, Indian tennis stars Sania Mirza and Leander Paes partnered Hingis for their women’s-doubles and mixed-doubles wins, respectively. This is not to take the spotlight away from Paes and Mirza. But Indians had a collective heartburn over the souring of the Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi partnership that once ruled Grand Slam, and injuries and poor form undermined the promise of greatness for Mirza’s singles career. So, in Hingis, Indian tennis enthusiasts see  a sort of resurrection for the country in the tennis world.

There is no missing the irony here. In the larger picture, India never had much to lose, given tennis stars play for individual glory, not national pride—except in the Olympics, maybe. And yet, we all know, a Swiss player’s stellar brilliance, partnered ably by our top guns, is our best bet.

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