- The Indian American’s history-making win comes after his disappointing performance at the junior French Open, where he crashed out in the first round.
New Jersey teen Samir Banerjee made history on July 11 by winning the Wimbledon Boys’ singles title at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London. The 17-year-old defeated fellow American Victor Lilov 7-5, 6-3 to win the title. The last time an Indian player won a singles junior Grand Slam title was when Yuki Bhambri won in the Australian Open in 2009. Banerjee is currently ranked 19th in the world.
“Remember the name — Samir Banerjee,” said a tweet from Wimbledon’s official Twitter handle. “The American wins his first junior Grand Slam singles title by beating Victor Lilov in the boys’ singles final.”
Banerjee’s win comes after his disappointing performance at the junior French Open, where he crashed out in the first round. He told SportsStar after the French Open, his expectations were pretty low. “So yeah, Wimbledon was tough and my only expectation was to turn things around.” After he won the first and the second round, Banerjee said he “slowly gained confidence” about his game. “I got my self-belief that I could play well on grass courts, so I was able to string together a couple of good matches and could reach the final. And I just played my best tennis today.”
He told The Indian Express that he was in shock after winning the final match. “I was saying ‘are you kidding me. I said it three or four times. I just couldn’t believe it. I was in shock, and then that shock turned into happiness, and then I got excited. It just made me very happy.” And he also felt his Indian roots. “Just looking into the crowd, there were a lot of Indians there, supporting me a lot. I really appreciated that. Some were shouting very loudly, some asked me for photographs afterwards. I’m obviously not from India, I’m American. But having Indian relatives and parents, it makes me appreciate the culture and everything that goes with it.”
Despite a Grand Slam win, the 6-ft-2 teenager will leave the tour briefly to attend college at the Columbia University – where he will pursue a degree in either economics or political science.
His father Kunal Banerjee told The Indian Express that want him to do well in his academics. “We’re not any different, we want him to do well in his academics.” Banerjee’s father hails from Assam, while his mother, Usha, was born in Andhra Pradesh. They moved to the U.S. in the 1980s. Banerjee has an elder sister, Divya Banerjee.
Banerjee has been playing tennis since the age of six. Before Wimbledon, he trained with Indian tennis players, Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sriram Balaji.
Banerjee told SportsStar that winning Wimbledon has shown him that he can take my tennis as far as he can. Before this, he said he was “just interested in using tennis to go to college and play at higher level juniors. But now, it has shown me that I can compete at this level and I can win. Maybe I can take it to the next level and it gives me a lot of confidence. It also taught me a lot about professionalism and how to deal with matches, the crowd, and how to play at a big stadium — these are all learning experiences.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy took to Twitter to congratulate the Basking Ridge resident. “Congratulations to New Jersey’s own Samir Banerjee on winning the #Wimbledon boys’ singles title! We’re looking forward to watching you dominate the court for years to come.”
Similarly, New Jersey Congressman Tom Malinowski tweeted: “Huge congratulations to Samir Banerjee from Basking Ridge, who just won the Wimbledon junior tennis championship!”
Legendary Indian tennis player Vijay Amritraj congratulated Banerjee and said, “Wonderful win for Indian American 17 yr old Samir Banerjee in the boys singles at Wimbledon 2021. Wish him well for a great future.”
Three Indian tennis players have won the junior boys Wimbledon singles title over the years. The first one to do so was Ramanathan Krishnan, who won in 1954. His son Ramesh Krishnan emulated the feat, winning it in 1979, adding to his junior French Open crown earlier in the year. The last Indian to win the junior Wimbledon singles title was Leander Paes in 1990.
Sania Mirza is the only female Indian tennis player to win the junior Wimbledon title. She partnered with the ROC’s Alisa Kleybanova to win the Wimbledon girls’ doubles title in 2003.
Rising star Sumit Nagal and his partner Ly Hoang Nam of Vietnam won the Wimbledon boys’ doubles title in 2015.