Nitten Kirrtane overwhelmed with the Dhyan Chand award

At the age of 45, Nitten Kirrtane continues to play the game, despite coaching stints and has extended his winning streak to the international circuits.

Nitten Kirrtane, with the Dhyan Chand award, along with his wife Rheeya, sons Arjun and Aaryan.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

He has been the unsung hero of Indian tennis. For sheer courage and perseverance, few can match Nitten Kirrtane, the recipient of the Dhyan Chand award.

For one who had finished runner-up in the junior doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi in Wimbledon in 1992, Nitten did not have a glittering career like the multiple Grand Slam champion, for a variety of reasons.

The 45-year-old gutsy left-hander, who continues to play the game, despite coaching stints, has extended the winning streak to the international seniors circuit. He had won the mixed doubles silver with Vlada Kirlovska of Latvia in the World Championship in Miami, US, last year.

"I was very happy that my family, including my kids Arjun and Aaryan, wife Rheeya were with me, along with my mother and mother-in-law, when I received the award from the President’’, said Nitten, quite overwhelmed by the atmosphere at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

"When the President walked in and the live band played the national anthem, I had goosebumps. My mind went blank when my name was called, but I stood composed when I received the award’’, recalled Nitten, about receiving the life time achievement award.

After being one of the top juniors in the world, Nitten was quite strong in the men’s circuit. He was part of the Davis Cup team and was part of the team along with Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and cousin Sandeep Kirtane, that won the Asia Cup in 1997. He was also part of the team that won the Asian Games bronze in Bangkok in 1998. He had won the SAF Games gold and silver medals. During the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Nitten was part of the coaching staff.

What distinguished Nitten was the raw courage he showed in bouncing back to the tennis court from a road accident that required a steel rod to be put in his right arm, after it was almost paralysed, and an achilles tendon surgery. He lost nearly three years from 2005 to 2007, but compensated with his winning return to the game.

Nitten has retained the passion for the game that was nurtured at the Batra Tennis Academy in Pune by coach Nandan Bal, after he had taken the baby steps into the game at the Deccan Gymkhana Club.

A member of the Railways team that won the World Railways Games gold and silver, Nitten was the coach of the team this time when it defended the gold medal.

Nitten was thrilled with the dinner hosted by the Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju in honour of the awardees, and also the felicitation by the Railways Minister Piyush Goyal the following day.

Nitten takes every opportunity to contribute to the game, even as a commentator for Doordarshan for national and international events.