Join Date: Oct 2001
Women's Tennis In India
Infomration on Women's tennis in India is rare-I found this tooling around on the internet:
Women’s Tennis in India
Tennis was introduced in India by the British in the last quarter of the 19th century and at their initiative, a regular tournament was first started in Lahore [now in Pakistan] in 1885 known as the Punjab Lawn Tennis Championship. The Ladies singles event in this championship was inaugurated in 1887, and interestingly, it coincided with the first Ladies singles event of the US National Championship at Philadelphia in the same year.
Those were the days of the British Raj in India and the participation of women was usually restricted to the wives and daughters of the British civilian and army officers posted in India. The first ladies champion at Lahore was Miss Warburton. Indian women’s participation in various tournaments began slowly and not until the end of 1910s or early 1920s did they come forward to play any significant role in the game. And their involvement first came in the mixed doubles events rather than in the singles.
The time taken by Indian women in establishing themselves in tennis was not surprising when seen in its historical and social perspective. During the early period tennis itself was a sport of the rich and elite, and played mostly in Gymkhanas and other European dominated clubs whose membership was often restricted to Europeans or to highly placed Indians. The dress code for Indian women and various social prejudices also acted as great constraints. The game was thus confined to a handful of highly westernized Indian families.
The first woman singles champion of Indian origin was EM Sandison who won the Bengal Lawn Tennis Championship title in Calcutta overcoming the challenges of British women participants in 1925. She was followed by her more famous younger sister Jenny who won her first of many singles titles in the more prestigious All India Championship played at Allahabad, in 1927. Sandison sisters belonged to an Anglo-Indian family coming from a small Railway colony of Kharagpur, West Bengal. Elsewhere in Bombay and Punjab, two women belonging to orthodox Indian families, Mrs.Khama Row and Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur created waves around this time. Khama, mother of more renowned Leela Row, bagged her first singles crown at the Bombay Presidency Hard Court Championship and Raj Kumari, the doubles title [with Miss E.Roe] at the Punjab Championship – both in 1927.
The years between the early 1930s to the end of the Second World War [i.e. up to mid 1940s] witnessed some exciting women’s tennis. Two of India’s greatest women players, Jenny Sandison and Leela Row made waves, one following the other. Jenny won the All India singles title at Allahabad seven times and the Bengal title six times breaking the monopoly of a large number of talented European players such as Mrs.Lena McKenna, Miss Byrant, Mrs.Stork, Mrs.Keays etc. She became the undisputed No.1 tennis player for a straight six years between 1930 to 1935 and in a tournament in Europe, she once beat Betty Nuthall, US champion 1930. Jenny was the first player of Indian origin to play at Wimbledon in 1929 but lost in the first round.
Leela Row was yet another outstanding player of this era who reigned supreme from mid 1930s with numerous laurels. Her numerous championship trophies included among others, seven Bombay Presidency Hard Court championship titles and seven All India singles titles at Allahabad etc. More creditably, she became the first Indian woman to win a round at Wimbledon in 1934 as she beat Miss GM Southwell [Britain] in the first round.
Around this time three highly talented Parsi women, PG Dinshaw, MH Dinshaw and Meher Dubash were also winning most of the important titles in the Sind Lawn Tennis Championship and North West Indian Tennis championship titles played at Karachi [now in Pakistan].
As the War ended, the National championship, traditionally played on grass courts, and the National Hard Court championship, were instituted by the All India Tennis Association in 1946. The first woman National Champion was Khanum Singh [nee Haji] in 1946 which was played on the grass courts of South Club, Calcutta. Khanum Haji who had a powerful service and a graceful all-round game was a National Champion for three successive years [1946-48]. Two renowned foreigners who visited India in this period and won our National crowns were Patricia Todd, USA [and a French Open Champion in 1947] and Althea Gibson, USA [Wimbledon and US Open champion in 1957-58].
Other women players of great merit during the period and up to the end of 1950s were Laura Woodbridge, a Britisher who made her home in India, Sarah Mody, Promilla Khanna, Urmila Thapar and Rita Davar. Rita distinguished herself with an outstanding feat at Wimbledon too – she became a Runner-up in the Junior Girls tournament there in 1952. So far she is the only woman to make such a mark at Junior Wimbledon.
With the retirement of these women stars of the 1950s, there was a lull in the women’s tennis scenario for a brief period before Nirupama Vasant [later Mrs.Mankad] arrived and completely dominated the field for several years between the mid 1960s to early 1970s. An Asian Champion in 1965 as a teenager, she won several National and other titles to become the undisputed No.1 in the women’s circuit. Nirupama Mankad was duly honoured for her contribution to women’s tennis and was awarded the prestigious Arjuna award for achievement in national sports in 1980. She is so far the only woman to have received this award in tennis. Other notable women either contemporaries to Nirupama in the 1970s or following her trail with distinction in the 1980s were among others, Peshawaria sisters, Kiran [now Mrs.Bedi] and Anu, Amreeta Ahluwalia [now Mrs.Balachandran], Namratha Appa Rao, Susan Das, Zenobia Irani, Nandini Rangarajan, Bela Pandit etc.
A new generation of women players took over in 1990s headed by Nirupama Vaidyanathan from Tamilnadu. Aradhana Reddy and K.Janaki were national champions [grass] in 1990 and 1991. Then it was Nirupama Vaidyanathan all over the scene till she turned professional in 1996. She won the National titles [grass] for four successive years between 1992 and 1995 and National Hard Court titles also for four years [1991 and 1993-95]. Following Nirupama’s foreign engagements, Arati Ponnappa, Rushmi Chakravorthi, Sai Jayalakshmy, Uzma Khan, Radhika Tulpule and Manisha Malhotra have been sharing the National titles [both on grass and on hard courts] among themselves – Manisha lifting the last grass court National title in January 2001. Nirupama however remained at the top as the most outstanding among them. She also created a bit of history in 1998 when she won the first round match [singles] against the Italian Gloria Pizzichini, ranked more than 100 spots ahead of her in WTA ranking, in the Australian Open – the first Indian woman to win a round in a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era [i.e. since 1968].