South Club brings back the former titans of Indian tennis

The former greats of the Indian tennis, including Anand Amritraj, Davis Cuppers Gaurav Natekar and Mustafa Ghouse, came together for the centenary celebrations of the Calcutta South Club.

Calcutta South Club

Former Greats of Indian Tennis, Anand Amritraj, Ramanathan Krishnan, Jaidip Mukerjea and Ramesh Krishnan with former Davis Cuppers Mustafa Ghouse and Gaurav Natekar during the centenary celebration of Calcutta South Club.   -  RAJEEV BHATT

“The South Club has produced the most number of top players of the country,” was how the nonpareil Ramanathan Krishnan described the most celebrated cradle of Indian tennis that turned 100 this month. The centenary celebration of the iconic tennis club, which was set up in 1920, has brought together the former titans of the sport to relive the triumphs and moments of glory that they experienced here on its hallowed grass courts, on Saturday.

Ramanathan was joined by his son, Ramesh, who is definitely a worthy successor of his father’s accomplishments on the tennis court. The charismatic Anand Amritraj also joined the party with his former Davis Cup team-mate Jasjit Singh to recall the time they strove together for national glory. 

Former national grass-court champions like Gaurav Natekar and Mustafa Ghouse also returned to their favoured venue responding to the invitation extended by another legend, Jaidip Mukerjea, who currently is at the helm of South Club as its president.

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“South Club became the most important venue of Indian tennis as it had excellent coaches and it offered the right combination of coaching, training and tournament play to create champions of Indian tennis,” said Ramanathan adding that the National federation should figure out the way to provide this formulation to the present generation of Indian players. Having played the semifinals in the Wimbledon twice (1960 and 1961), Ramanathan is perhaps the most qualified Indian tennis player to suggest the right formula for success.

When Ramesh, remembered for the class he showed in taking India to the Davis Cup final in 1987, was asked about present state of the sport in the country, he said the present generation is facing more competition than ever before. “The scenario has shifted to Europe now and you don’t have that many tournaments like challengers and lower level events which allow the Indians to pick up points. Added to it is the fact that the ITF and ATP have changed some rules which is also acting against India,” he said.

On a question about who will be taking the place of his former team-mate Leander Paes, who is set to retire this year, Ramesh said it is too early to predict now. “There are names like Sumit Nagal and Prajnesh (Gunneswaran) who are playing good tennis but it is too early to say who will succeed Leander,” he said.

Returning to South Club after more than three decades, Anand Amritraj said the Indian players have to reach a level of consistency to be able play the top tournaments of Europe. “There are a lot of names who are hanging around but have not been able to make the break into the top 100. One has to consistently remain the top hundred to play the big competitions in the West. By this you are also helping the Davis Cup team of the country,” he said.

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