This list will not feature any bat-ball player. No cricket. It’s a team game and the team was pathetic throughout the year.
10. Vishnuvardhan, Tennis
When watching tennis on TV, the viewer has the benefit of the camera angle where both the players are visible in a single frame. Thus, the entire game is easily seen. For those sitting courtside, on the flanks, the strength of their neck muscles has to be steel standard. Their necks have to constantly turn from one side of the court to the other as they follow the ball getting whacked by either tennis player.
Vishnuvardhan was testing his neck muscles watching Mahesh Bhupati and Leander Paes spar over the doubles entry for London 2012 with AITA playing an incompetent chair umpire. All of a sudden, Vishnu heard his name and he found himself entered for the doubles with Leander as his partner. His first reaction “But I don’t even have good shoes!” The first reaction for most people were less flattering “Vishnu Vardhan who?”
A multiple medalist at Ghuangzhou Asian Games, Vishnu has been doing the Davis Cup rounds for a couple of years. In September, with Leander out due to injury and both Mahesh and Bopanna dropped by the AITA, he was the second singles player and the senior doubles player partnering the debutant Dvij Sharan. Over 5 hours, he won two matches – the singles match, interrupted due to bad light and then a 4 hour five-setter doubles match – to give India victory over New Zealand in the Davis Cup zonal tie.
But his performance of the year was at the AELTC courts in Wimbledon. The quality of opposition was of a magnitude unimaginable to what he has been used to in the ITF circuits. They lost in the second round to the French duo of Llodra and Tsonga in three sets, the match turning away after a crucial break in the 8th game of the 3rd set.
I plug for Vishnu because of his sheer willingness to stand up and take the opportunities that came his way and that he had the stomach to fight given that Llodra and Tsonga very clearly targeted him as the weaklink. He has much to improve. He was significantly helped by Leander Paes in the one month leading up to the tournament. As Paes later said “Now we really have to nurture this talent. With a little experience, can you imagine? We’ve really rattled the No.5 singles player in the world and a multiple doubles grand slam champion today.“