He authored professional tennis

Published : Sep 26, 2009 00:00 IST

Ramanathan Krishnan (in pic) believes that Jack Kramer was not a mere mortal but an institution. Very few in India have Krishnan’s insight and information about the high priest of professional tennis. Krishnan, quite understandably, turned emotional when he paid glowing tributes to Kramer, who passed away in Los Angeles.

“The tennis fraternity will remember him as the ‘father of professional tennis,’ Krishnan said with a tinge of nostalgia. Jack Kramer fought conservative establishments in Australia, England and several other parts of the world to obliterate the line between the professional and amateur. And it was a long and fierce battle for the veteran, winner of the Wimbledon crown in 1947. His dream came true in 1968 when tennis became open. “This was a historic moment in the life of Jack Kramer,” observed Krishnan.

When Kramer came to Wimbledon in 1946, he suffered from blisters in the foot and lost in the semifinals. But next year he came back and won the title without losing a set. The English press hailed him as a maestro and headlined his achievement as “a machine called Kramer.”

As the author of professional tennis, Kramer had such legendary stars as Rosewall, Sedgman, Hoad, and several others in his fold and provided them a lucrative career. The “Kramer circus,” as the group was called, played enchanting tennis across the globe thrilling the audience everywhere, thereby focussing on the gap in quality between professional and amateur tennis.

Kramer had an eye on Ramanathan Krishnan, attracted as he was by the artistry and aesthetics of the Indian’s play.

“He offered me a three-year contract for US $150,000 for three years in 1959. But I could not accept that because it prohibited me from playing Davis Cup and Wimbledon. Since I was keen on playing in both (Davis Cup and Wimbledon), I did not take it up.”

Krishnan portrayed Kramer as a great human being, recalling an instance narrated to him by son, Ramesh. “When Frank Sedgman turned 80, Kramer, who was confined to a wheelchair at that point, endured all the trouble and pain and flew from Los Angeles to Melbourne to be with the Aussie icon on his birthday. That’s how he cared for fellow professionals who all lived like a family.”

“The Kramer circus,” played in Madras in 1960. It is a pity that Kramer, who played in Calcutta a couple of years earlier, did not come to Madras when the stalwarts of the Kramer team played at the Egmore Stadium courts, Krishnan noted.

Jack Kramer symbolised a vibrant saga that sowed the seeds for the eventual transition and elimination of the line between professionals and amateurs.

Krishnan concluded saying, “Kramer was a great player, a critic, commentator, and above all, a wonderful human being. Open Tennis, as we see today, is the legacy of the great, immortal Jack.”

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