Naresh Kumar, the doyen of Indian tennis, has seen almost every bit of the country’s tennis history play out in front of his eyes. On Thursday, Kumar, all of 90 years old, made it a point to journey from his residence to the Calcutta South Club and wish the Indian team well ahead of the Italy tie.
“For tennis South Club was the best,” recollected Kumar on the sidelines of the draw ceremony, in his still clear and youthful voice. “No other place had eighteen grass courts. They were beautiful and well-maintained and the average standard of tennis was very high.”
One of the reasons, he said, was because it was frequented by top players from around the world. “During the winter, there were not that many covered courts in England. So players from abroad used to be invited to come and play here. The reason why our players improved was because we were given the chance to play against them.”
“I learnt from the Swedish players,” he added. “I used to see them practise early in the day, so I used to also wake up. We were not wonder boys to have achieved things. Those days things were different. Now a player has so many other commitments.”
Like the Davis Cup which it is hosting, the club too is going through an inevitable transformation. From 18, the grass courts are down to six and even the old centre court, on which India beat Italy in 1985, no longer exists. Yet, Kumar, more than anybody, would hope that India can relive the glory achieved here more than three decades ago.
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