The Amazing Story of Rajeev Ram, You Need To Know

Rajeev Ram’s name is revered in international tennis circles. He represents the US and not India, which remains something of a regret. The tall and lanky 39-year-old is famous for winning the Olympic silver medal with Serena Williams. In fact, he holds the record of being the second-highest player in the history of the game to be crowned world No. 1 in doubles at the ripe age of 38.

Pic courtesy: Clive Brunskill, Getty images

Rajeev, whose father, Raghav, a biotech engineer, was born and reared in Bangalore, Mother Sushma was a homemaker, and Ram was leading a normal young kid’s life in the southern city.

Both parents spoke Kannada, and the young Rajeev became conversant in Kannada. “I learned to speak Kannada since my father used to speak it very regularly during my childhood. I can understand a bit of Tamil too,” he added.

Rajeev also has vivid memories of playing cricket, tennis, and badminton as a youngster. ‘Like any other youngster, I remember trying my hand at these sports. I must say that I was good at cricket initially, as I used to have some powerful hits with the rubber ball that we used to play cricket with,” Rajeev added.

Rajeev also said that at the time his father made the decision to go to America, there was a mixed reaction. I was happy that we were leaving for a foreign country, yet I must admit it was tinged with sadness,” recalls Rajeev.

It was during his stint at the University of Illinois that Rajeev started taking tennis seriously. “I had a very good coach in David O. Meara who had a lot of faith in my abilities—probably he had more faith in me than me myself,” chuckles Rajeev.

Slowly but surely, he started making his mark, winning at the college level and then gradually progressing at the state level. Rajeev soon established himself as one of the leading juniors in the US, winning the Easter Bowl and also winning the Junior US Open doubles title in 2000.

Rajeev Ram 2009 Indianapolis Tennis Championships Indianapolis, Indiana

“That win in the junior US Open convinced me about my abilities to go places as a tennis player, and that is when I realised that I could pursue tennis as a full-time career,” opined Rajeev.

What’s more interesting about Rajeev is the fact that at the pinnacle of his singles career, he was so good that he had a famous win over former Wimbledon, US Open, and world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson, among others.

At the peak of his powers, he was ranked as high as No. 35 in the world, and that too in singles. It was at this juncture that he recalls an incident about which he still harbours a lot of regret.

It was the year 2011, and Rajeev expressed his desire to play for India. At first, the Indian tennis federation was gung-ho about his decision and gave him the impression that he was most welcome and that representing India would be a mere formality. At this point, Rajeev was ecstatic and had mentally given up on representing the US. But then, in a cruel twist of fate, the Indian government came up with a clause that if one had to represent India, then that sportsperson would have to relinquish his other passport.

“That decision was like a bolt from the blue. I just didn’t know how to react. I was really shocked and stunned. Here I was all prepared to represent India, but then I get this news from an Indian official. It took me almost a year to stave off this disappointment,” said Rajeev.

But once he managed to shrug aside the disappointment, Rajeev was back to his best—winning matches and climbing up the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) ladder.

Rajeev was also quick to point out some of his best moments, which he will cherish for the rest of his life. “In singles, the win over Australian Hewitt is without a doubt the biggest feather in my cap. In doubles, the silver medal I won with Serena Williams at the Rio Olympics (2016) would certainly be up there as one of my best shows. Of course, the men’s doubles title at the Australian Open (2020) and US Open (2021 and 2022) will be my biggest takeaways from the game,” he said.

Chacko Saji

With nearly two decades of experience in sports journalism, Saji Chacko is one of the few English media journalists who has had a chequered career across the three main media platforms i.e. print, television and digital. He has done a lot of human interest sports stories and is currently working on the biography of a famous sportsperson.

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