India's top 10 sportspersons of the year
Somdev Devvarman (Tennis): The 24-yearold,
who was talked of as the next big thing ever since his debut in the Davis Cup match against Japan last year, created history in January by becoming the first Indian to reach the final of the ATP Chennai Open. The University of Virginia graduate beat the likes of former World No.1 Carlos Moya and Croat Ivo Karlovic en route to the final. Somdev also became the first Indian men's player to qualify for the singles main draw of a Grand Slam event in seven years in the US Open.
Chinnaswamy Muniyappa (Golf): For a man who caddied for one rupee
during his childhood, winning the Indian Open in October 2009 was a lifetransforming
moment. The win fetched Muniyappa the Rookie of the Year
title after the 32-year-old finished his season in 10th place on the Order of
Merit with $223,269 through one win and three other top-25 finishes. The
caddie-turned-pro was the lone Indian in Asian Tour's annual roll of
Gautam Gambhir (Cricket): The year has been outstanding for Indian
opener Gautam Gambhir. He won the International Cricket Council's (ICC)
Test Player of the Year award in October. In July, he held the number one
Test ranking, though for only 10 days.
Leander Paes (Tennis): Age only seems to bring the best out of Leander
Paes. The 35-year-old Indian with Czech partner Lukas Dlouhy won the
French Open title, beating Wesley Moodie of South Africa and Belgium's
Dick Norman. He also finished runners-up in mixed doubles with partner
Cara Black in the Wimbledon and the US Open.
Subrata Paul (Football): The Indian team goalkeeper rose from his
turbulent past to take the country to a sensational 6-5 victory in a
shootout over Syria for the Nehru Cup title. With the win, India not only
retained the ONGC Nehru Cup but the sport in the country also found a
new hero. Paul was also adjudged the Footballer of the Year by the All
India Football Federation (AIFF), the first
goalkeeper to win the award.
Vijender Singh (Boxing): After last year's
Olympic bronze, boxer Vijender Singh proved
he was not a flash in the pan. Vijender silenced
his critics when he won a bronze medal in the
World Championships in September, the firstever
medal for India in the Championships.
Later in the month, the Bhiwani boxer added
yet another feat becoming the world's number
one boxer in the middle weight (75kg) category, the first Indian ever to do
so. He was awarded the Khel Ratna along with Olympic bronze medallist
wrestler Sushil Kumar and women's four-time world champion boxer Mary
Suranjoy Singh (Boxing): The gritty boxer from Manipur gave India its
first Asian Championship gold in 15 years. A Mike Tyson fan, the 22-yearold
flyweight pugilist, however, could not repeat his success in the World
Championships at Milan, where he made a first round exit. Suranjoy
worked on his game and returned to win gold at the prestigious AIBA
President's Cup in December. The win has only added to his hunger to win
medals for India.
Saina Nehwal (Badminton): After a stupendous 2008, wherein she
reached the quarterfinals of the Olympics and also won the most
'Promising Player of the Year' award, Saina carried on from where she left
last year. The 19-year-old created history in June when she became the
first Indian to win a Super Series title with the Indonesian Open in
Djakrata. She touched her career-high ranking of six in July. Saina was
also awarded the Arjuna Award this year for her achievements.
Valiyaveetil Diju and Jwala Gutta (Badminton): India's top mixed
doubles pair has been making waves on the international scene since
renewing their partnership in early 2008, after a year's break. Riding on
their performance, they entered the top-10 in world rankings and made
the cut for the World Championships in Hyderabad where they became the
first Indian pair to reach the quarterfinals. They won the Chinese Taipei
Open in August and finished the year on a high, reaching the final of the
World Super Series Masters Finals in Malaysia earlier this year.
Pankaj Advani (Snooker): It is hard to neglect Pankaj Advani when one
talks of distinct achievements in Indian sports. The 24-year-old, who is the
only player to have achieved the 'grand double' of winning both the points
and time formats at the IBSF World Billiards Championships, winning it in
2005 and the 2008 Championships held in Bangalore, carried his form this
year. Advani won the 2009 World Professional Billiards Championship in
Leeds, his first World Professional Billiards Championship title, beating
defending champion Mike Russell in the final. The World Championships
last month however turned out to be a dampener for him.