When Ramanathan and Ramesh Krishnan, father and son, said of Akhtar Ali around there was always laughter, he knows how easily he lived for generations. With the son Zeeshan, India Davis Cup coach, family reunion and tennis will remain healthy after the death of Ali, 81, on Sunday from a number of health issues. But as Krishnan Senior says: “People will miss him very much because for 65 years he was part of Indian tennis.”
A young man holding a beautiful piece of backhand, Ali rose from a low background and became an Indian junior champion in 1955 and made his way to the Wimbledon junior finals. He played eight Davis Cup titles between 1958 and 1964 and won the men’s oriental men’s squash competition in eastern India. But it was the tennis captain who did not play India and the coach that touched lives.
Until recently, he was to run a training program at Calcutta South Club, his home away from home not too far away. From Ramadanathan, Gaurav Misra extends to Ramesh Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Leander Paes, Zeeshan Ali, Syed Fazaluddin, Enrico Piperno to Somdev Devvarman and Sania Mirza – and more than that – Ali was always present.
“He had a role to play in all the good players coming out of India. He had a good knowledge of the game mainly because of the practical experience. He was a tennis friend; I could not have done it without a tennis court, ”Ramanathan, 83, said in a phone call from Chennai on Sunday. Ramathanathan played in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1960 and 1961.
It was Ali, the former Davis Cup coach at the time, who had convinced Krishnan to pair up with Jaideep Mukerjea instead of his regular teammate Premjit Lall in the 1966 Davis Cup match against Brazil that took India to the final, then the Challenge Round, against Australia.
“He was a good judge of the people. He knew my friendship for the game because he and Premjit were playing together (at the South Club). At Wimbledon, we (Ramanathan-Mukerjea) made the quarter-finals of our one season together. It was thanks to him that our double activity flourished. It is sad that you missed Dronacharya. His contribution to world tennis and not just Indian tennis was huge, ”said Mukerjea, 78. Arjuna’s 2000 award for his tennis dedication felt like it was too late.
At a time when the idea of a European country appointing India as coach seemed absurd – at the same time – Ali was Belgium’s top coach (1980-84). He also had two stations as head coach of Malaysia.
Ali also accompanied former India captain Vijay Amritraj. “Vijay used to tell the players who looked at me in amazement,” don’t go for his size, “said Ali with a chuckle as he held him in a state at the South Club. Such conversations often accompany Chinese people from a club restaurant or at least a cup of tea if you disappoint him. bless you. “
“Akhtar Ali was awesome as a coach both when I was younger as well as the coach of our India Davis Cup team. It is always worked hard to keep the team comfortable. He has done a great job at Indian Tennis. Dear RIP Aktar (sic). We extend our heartfelt condolences to Zeeshan and his beloved family, ”Amritraj tweeted.
Ali stood out to Ramesh, “because he was my son,” said Ramanathan. For Ramesh, 59, Ali was the man who handled the Indian youth every season at the pre-season camp at Patiala’s National Institute of Sport. And who would help them through a small European circuit.
“He wouldn’t hesitate to go to anyone, say Pancho Gonzales or Stan Smith in Queens and say, ‘why don’t you come and hit some balls with Ramesh?’. I was left alone, embarrassed to go to them. But not him. you will remember that, ”said Ramesh, who played from 1978 to 1993 and co-starred in singles.