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Updated: May 30, 2013 10:05 IST

Tennis ace Vijay Amritraj feted

Special Correspondent
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Vijay Amritraj (left) was honoured with the ‘Distinguished NRI Award’ by Union minister Shashi Tharoor — Photo: K.V. Srinivasan
THE HINDU Vijay Amritraj (left) was honoured with the ‘Distinguished NRI Award’ by Union minister Shashi Tharoor — Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

Sport is an embodiment of purity: this was the underlying sentiment at a city function where tennis ace Vijay Amritraj was honoured by Union minister of State for human resource development, Shashi Tharoor.

Neither of the men, however, mentioned the betting and fixing scandal that has overshadowed cricket, the country’s most popular sport.

The function, on Wednesday, was organised by the Rotary Club of Madras East and Kauvery Hospital to confer the ‘Distinguished NRI Award’ on Vijay Amritraj.

Though the audience was hoping for a discussion or remarks on the current controversy, Mr. Tharoor and Mr. Amritraj stayed clear of the issue. Before the minister’s arrival, Mr. Amritraj volunteered to interact with the audience on matters other than cricket.

In a walk down memory lane, he said he took to tennis to overcome a physical ailment and his mother always stood by him. Whenever he would go for a five-mile run, she would drive alongside him, worried he would collapse midway.

Whenever he was unable to attend school (he went to Church Park and Don Bosco before joining Loyola College), his mother read him the lessons and also pleaded with the head of the institution to permit him to appear for the examinations.

The sport he took up, Mr. Amritraj said, changed his perspective on life and taught him to ‘win well and lose well’. Sport for him was an embodiment of purity, a view endorsed by Mr. Tharoor in his speech.

The minister reminisced how amateurs pursued sports just for the love of it. Mr. Amritraj played tennis at the highest level as an ‘epitome of class’ in an ‘era of terribly bad behaviour’ from the likes of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.

Mr. Amritraj provided that ‘thrilling excitement’ on court and proved he could beat the best in the business, starting from Rod Laver.

When Kofi Annan, the then secretary-general of the United Nations, was looking for an Asian figure who embodied the values of the organisation, to be its voice, the only person who came to his mind for the position of the under secretary-general was Vijay Amritraj, Mr. Tharoor said.

The only Indian to be the UN messenger of peace, Mr. Amritraj was a tireless advocate of peace and continued to carry out humanitarian work through the Vijay Amritraj Foundation, he said.

Hailing Mr. Amritraj as the ‘National Reserve of India,’ the Union minister recalled how the tennis ace, who left Chennai at the age of 18, kept coming back to India despite his success in the western world. His was an extraordinary voice for India in the U.S. and he did unpaid work as a special ambassador of his country, the minister said.

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Vijay has always been a class act. I enjoyed watching him play Bertram Tournament in Loyola College where I was one year senior to him. I followed his whole tennis career and he was always delightful to watch. He is a perfect gentleman off the court. I saw him at a restaurant in LA a while ago and introduced myself as an ex Loyolite. He took the time to come and meet/greet my family at the table. We need more athletes like Vijay. Wish you all the best in everything you do, Vijay.

from:  G.C. Sekaran
Posted on: Jun 1, 2013 at 03:24 IST

Sports needs Vijay-like winners. A true legend and a role model. Wishing the young man all the very best in his services to our sports culture.

from:  Dr.Cajetan Coelho
Posted on: May 31, 2013 at 13:02 IST

Vijay Amritraj was always the face of Indian Tennis in the
international scene. He is an extraordinary Indian, with gift of the
gab and skills to match. His numerous accomplishments in Tennis is
unrivalled to this day. I grew up watching Vijay in conversation with
Allan Wilkins at the Wimbledon. This was one event I never wished to
miss out on. The excitement of Wimbledon with Vijay was a heady mix.

The only peeve I have was that BAT had a big role to play in promoting
tennis in India and its winding up has not helped the cause at all. I
certainly hope that BAT will be revived with the best of coaches and
facilities nationwide. At the moment, there is glaring lack of
facilities and coaching in cities in India, as a result of which
children are fast turning away from it.

from:  Devidas Unny
Posted on: May 30, 2013 at 23:16 IST

Vijay is a great Indian, sports personality par excellence by any standards and his smile is simply splendid. Let us honour him by making him incharge for growth of Tennis in India. Insted of talks, let us take concrete steps.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: May 30, 2013 at 13:31 IST
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