Badminton legend Nandu Natekar passes away aged 88

Nandu Natekar was the first Indian player to win an overseas tournament in 1956.

Natekar was the first recipient of the Arjuna award in 1961.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Legendary badminton player Nandu Natekar, the first Indian to win an international title in 1956, died in Pune on July 28.

The 88-year-old, who won over 100 national and international titles in his career, was suffering from age-related ailments.

He is survived by his son and two daughters.

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“He passed away peacefully at home and we were all with him. He has been ailing for the last three months,” Gaurav, his son, told PTI.

Natekar, who was considered one of most popular sportspersons of his time, was also a former World No. 3.

Nandu Natekar with his Maharashtra State Badminton Championship trophy. (Published in Sport and Pastime on September 30, 1961). - THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Born in Sangli in western Maharashtra, Natekar won over 100 national and international titles in a career spanning over 15 years. He was conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1961.

“With deepest sorrow, we would like to inform you that our beloved father Nandu Natekar passed away on 28th July, 2021,” the Natekar family said in a message.

“Keeping in mind the COVID-19 guidelines, we will not be having a condolence meeting. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.”

In his distinguished career, Natekar made it to the quarterfinals of the prestigious All England Championships in 1954 and became the first Indian player to win an international event when he claimed the Sellanger International in Malaysia in 1956.

He won 12 out of the 16 singles matches, and eight out of 16 doubles matches as part of the Indian team at the Thomas Cup between 1951 and 1963. He led the country in the tournament in 1959, 1961 and 1963.

He also represented India at the 1965 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.

A true legend of Indian badminton - Gopichand

India's chief national coach P. Gopichand reacted to the news, saying that Natekar's name will always be spoken alongside other legends like Prakash Padukone, among others.

"For us, he is a true legend in Indian badminton. He is someone who is well-respected and we have heard stories about him. He not only played badminton but tennis at the highest level. He belonged to that era, where he, along with Suresh Goel, Dinesh Khanna and Prakash Padukone, his name will be up there," Gopichand told PTI.

Vimal Kumar, who has in the past coached the likes of Saina Nehwal to world championship medals, said that it was after watching Natekar that Kumar's father put a net outside their residence, which was his first introduction to the sport.

"He had such beautiful hands, skills and also his movement. My father was a big fan of him and in fact it was after he saw him during a national event at (then) Trivandrum that he put up an outside court at our house and that's how I got initiated into badminton," he said.

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