The man who serves

JAIDIP IN HIS PRIME.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Jaidip Mukerjea, part of the GREAT TRIO of Indian tennis in the 1960s, is a multi-faceted personality and his vision and virtues have helped him serve the game as administrator and coach, writes S. SABANAYAKAN.

He was one of the `Three Musketeers' of Indian tennis during the 1960s. Jaidip Mukerjea, along with Ramanathan Krishnan and Premjit Lall, fashioned many fine victories for the country in the Davis Cup and ushered in the golden era of Indian tennis.

Jaidip is a multi-faceted personality. He is a man of vision and virtues, which has helped him to serve the game as an administrator and coach. A vice-president of the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for life and the founder member of the Hero Sports Foundation, Jaidip's finest hour came when the International Tennis Federation (ITF) honoured him with the lifetime achievement award in 2003 for his contribution to the game for nearly 45 years.

A great grandson of the legendary Desabandhu Chittaranjan Das, Jaidip was born to Adip Mukerjea and Aditi Mukerjea on April 21, 1942. Jaidip's father was a keen sportsman and a Cambridge Blue in hockey. His maternal grandfather J. C. Mukerjea was one of the founders of Calcutta South Club, the premier tennis club of India, and its former president. He is also a former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Jaidip's maternal uncle Siddhartha Shankar Ray is a former Chief Minister of Bengal.

A keen sportsman during his school and college days, Jaidip participated in most sports including football, hockey, boxing, cricket and rugby, which was his favourite till he broke his collarbone while playing in school in 1952 and was advised to stay away from such rugged sports.

This compelled Jaidip to join the Rajkumari Amrit Kaur Tennis Coaching scheme in 1954. He came in contact with one of the finest coaches in India then, Dilip Bose, who later became his mentor. Young Jaidip learned the basics of the game and displayed great promise. He won the junior National Championship in 1959. The next year, he became the runner-up in the junior Wimbledon singles event.

Jaidip reached the pre-quarterfinals of the men's singles at Wimbledon in 1963, '64, '66 and '73, of the French Open in 1965 and '66, and of the US Open and the Australian Open in 1962. Pairing with Lall, he made the doubles quarterfinals three times and once with Krishnan. Jaidip won tournaments in Helsinki, Stockholm and England surprising legends like Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, John Newcombe and Arthur Ashe.

JAIDIP with wife Sharmin.-S. PATRONOBISH

Jaidip won the Asian Championship in 1966, '68 and '70. In the 1966 championship, he inflicted a rare defeat on Krishnan in the final. It was Krishnan's first loss to an Indian. Jaidip also won the National Championship in 1966 and '70.

As Jaidip faded from the national arena, the next generation of players took over. When Vijay Amritraj won his first National title, he defeated Jaidip in the semifinals. Ramesh Krishnan also defeated Jaidip in the quarterfinal on way to his maiden National title. Jaidip's entry in the Davis Cup was dramatic. He was drafted in as a last-minute replacement for Krishnan, the best player in the team, against Indonesia in Bangkok in 1960. Young Jaidip made a memorable debut winning a thrilling five-set match against Karalok. Thus began his 13-year long Davis Cup career in which he played 97 rubbers in 43 ties.

Along with Krishnan and Lall, Jaidip took India to the inter-zone finals for three years from 1960 to 1963 and again in 1968. The trio also steered India to its first ever Davis Cup Challenge round final against Australia.

India went down 1-4 to a superior Australian team and the only victory came from the doubles combination of Krishnan and Jaidip, which beat the legendary duo of John Newcombe and Tony Roche in a thrilling four-set encounter.

Jaidip's most famous victory came against Germany in 1966. In an inter-zone semifinal Davis Cup tie played in Delhi, Jaidip took India to the final against Brazil beating Ingo Budding in the first singles and the German No. 1 Wilhelm Bungert in the reverse singles.

Significantly, Bungert featured in the Wimbledon final later that year. Jaidip was conferred the Arjuna Award in 1966.

After his playing days, Jaidip actively took to coaching the Indian team in Davis Cup and was its non-playing captain for six years. When Leander Paes won the bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Jaidip was the coach of the Indian team. It was during his time that Mahesh Bhupathi was inducted into the Davis Cup team in 1994 in Jaipur against South Africa; he played his first match the next year against Hong Kong in Kolkata. During Jaidip's tenure, India won against a Dutch team and a Chilean team that included Marcelo Rios. Jaidip has also coached the Malaysian Davis Cup team.

Jaidip is now passionately involved in coaching and has established two academies; one in Kolkata and the other in Siliguri. After having served as the secretary of the Bengal Tennis Association for four years and having looked after the affairs of the South Club, one of the premier tennis clubs in India, for 12 years, Jaidip and his wife Sharmin Mukerjea are actively involved in training the future stars of Indian tennis through the Jaidip Mukerjea Tennis Academy in Kolkata and the Himalayan Tennis Academy in Siliguri.

The Jaidip Mukerjea Tennis Academy, which offers top-class facilities, is in the heart of Salt Lake, away from the hustle and bustle of the Eastern metropolis. Over 100 boys and girls in the age group of five to 15 train here. "Having lived and breathed tennis all these years, I could not obviously stay away from the game. It was then I decided to take up coaching and established these two academies," said Jaidip. "The Himalayan Tennis Academy will tap the potential available in the North East in a systematic and scientific way."

The future of Indian tennis lies in safe hands.