As we await the start of Wimbledon next week, we look back at the first Indian to reach the Singles quarter final at this iconic event – Ghaus Mohammad Khan. 

In 1938, Don Budge went to a place where no other tennis player had gone before him. He captured the Singles title at Australian, French, Wimbledon & US Championships – becoming the first to achieve the “Grand Slam.”

Only 3 men could take a set off Budge in a Grand Slam event that year. The first of them hailed from Malihabad in British India – Ghaus Mohammad Khan.  

Born in 1915, the early sporting love of Ghaus Mohammad was football. His father, a landlord of Malihabad, wanted his 3 sons to receive proper education and the boys were sent to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for the same. 

On a visit back home, Ghaus Mohammad witnessed his father playing a game of tennis. He joined his father for a round and fell in love with it. From that moment on, tennis became the centre of young Ghaus’ life. Fortunately, he found a great mentor in prof. Haidar Khan of AMU who became his biggest supporter.

By 1936, Ghaus was acknowledged as the no. 1 tennis player in India, replacing Sohanlal. In 1938, he traveled to Paris to take part in the French tennis championship where his path crossed with Don Budge.

In a round 3 encounter, after losing the first two sets, Ghaus became the 1st player that year to take a set off Budge when he won the 3rd set 7-5. Although he got blanked in the 4th set, Ghaus had grabbed the attention of the tennis world. 

A greater achievement came little over a year later when Ghaus Mohammad made it to the last eight at Wimbledon – the first Indian to achieve this honour. Unfortunately, he was defeated by Bobby Riggs who went on to win the title. 

In a few months, the world was plunged into a great war that would bring major sports events to a halt for more than 6 years. Like many other sportsmen of that era, Ghaus Mohammad also lost the best years of his career due to the war. 

Ghaus Mohammad had one last tryst with Wimbledon in 1947. Now past his prime, he lost in round 2 in singles and round 3 in doubles. The Indian government honored Ghaus Mohammad with the Padma Shri award in 1971.