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TT's a sad story, but the real tragedy is tennis

For all the achievements in the past in doubles, Indian tennis over the last decade has resembled a low-brow, repetitive reality TV show Gary M Prior/Allsport

The onset of the ITTF World TT India Open this week prompted one question - why did badminton rise and table tennis fade away?

My colleague Jonathan Selvaraj has sought to answer it in this article. Table tennis and badminton were at par in the 1980s and 1990s, before the eras of Prakash Padukone, P Gopichand, Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu tilted the balance firmly in badminton's favour.

There is one racket sport, however, which was ahead of the other two in India but is now reduced to a sorry reflection of a past far more decorated than those of both table tennis and badminton.

Tennis. Arguably the world's highest-profile individual sport, offering higher winners' prize money in its biggest events than even golf, where players from 37 countries feature in the men's world top 100 and 31 in the women's. Players from 30 different countries have won Grand Slam singles titles, including those from China, Mexico, Egypt and Ecuador.

India's own singles performances in Grand Slam events are now hoary memories. Millenials would be astonished to know that our tennis golden oldies produced singles performances in the Grand Slams (see box) that India's singles players today would die for.

In the current era, Sania Mirza's singles run - third round in the Australian Open (twice), second rounds in the French Open (twice) and Wimbledon (four times) and one round of 16 appearance at the US Open - comes closest.

The debate over whether Indian tennis's golden age lay in the singles achievements of its elders or its madcap 1990s Davis Cup World Group performances may still be up in the air. What certainly should not qualify as a golden age candidate is what the 21st century has brought to Indian tennis.

Regardless of how many Grand Slam doubles titles are being gathered by our players and tagged under the illusory achievement of "winning Grand Slams" what Indian tennis has produced over the last decade has been a low-brow, repetitive reality TV show. It is mostly focussed around the Davis Cups and Olympics and offers as much depth and meaning as the Kardashian family saga. Doubles titles definitely do matter to those competing for them, but they are not a reflection of Indian tennis's overall health or progress.

Indian tennisvolk tend to sniff haughtily when told that the steps being taken by the badminton community make them look bad. Fingers are pointed at badminton's limited global reach and how much cheaper it is to adopt badmiton as a sporting profession when compared to tennis.

Sure, but over the last decade, there have been more resources going around aspirational Indian athletes than ever before - private non-profit bodies, government assistance to achievers, greater attention paid to training, fitness and rehabilitation far better than what Amritraj or Padukone may have received.

Compared to badminton, golf and even kabaddi, Indian tennis is certainly not looking well. Yuki Bhambri had recently asked whether the All India Tennis Association (AITA) wanted to "see Indian tennis on the world map or not".

The sport's governors appear to be giving out dire clues in response: to start with, a drop in the number of Challengers and Futures held over the last few years. The reasons being cited in a report in the New Indian Express this week was "cash crunch." At a time when Indian sport has exploded elsewhere - in finance, expertise, audience, attention - our tennis appears to devote itself to narrow vision and limited activity.

The drive towards excellence of any kind can only be forward and upward and not what Indian tennis is doing these days - moving sideways.