Naib Subedar N Sriram Balaji is the first player in the history of the Indian Army to qualify for the Wimbledon main draw; he partnered with friend Vishnu Vardhan for their maiden Grand Slam appearance.
At the age of 10 when N Sriram Balaji ranked first in India in the Under-12 tennis category, he was scripting history for himself. Sixteen years later, the 26-year-old has become the first man from the Indian Army to qualify for the Wimbledon.
A cadet at Bengaluru's historic Madras Engineering Regiment, the Coimbatore boy has won five ATP Challenger Cups, since 2017, the year he joined Madras Sappers. Presently employed as a Junior Commissioned Officer, he qualified for the prestigious tournament in the men's doubles category after he and his partner, Vishnu Vardhan, defeated Denys Molchanov and Igor Zelenay 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of qualifiers.
Sriram and Vishnu will be the only Indian pair to feature in this year's edition, and this was the maiden Grand Slam appearance for both players, says The News Minute. In May this year, the duo won the doubles title in the ATP Challenger tournament held at Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
Taking to Twitter, the Indian Army also tweeted about this success.
Sriram won a Davis Cup match in the doubles category against Uzbekistan in 2017, and currently ranks at 117 worldwide. Giving him company from India is Tamil Nadu's Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who qualified for Wimbledon along with his partner, Austin Krajicek from the US. In the woman's category, Ankita Raina was playing to become the first Indian woman to feature in the women's singles category of a Grand Slam since Sania Mirza at the Australian Open in 2012. However, she lost in the qualifiers and was beaten 2-6, 7-5, 4-6 by Russia's Vitalia Diatchenko, world number 132.
In a conversation with The Scroll after winning the ATP Challenger circuit, Sriram said,
“It’s definitely another step forward in our career. We believe we can go deeper in the tournament. We are playing good and we are confident. But we would like to take it a step a time.”
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