Within hand-shaking distance were Djokovic, Tsonga, Murray and Serena

It was a dressing room dream come true, like no other. Standing before Shiv Prakash Misra was a distinguished looking gent, calmly puffing away on his pipe. Only that he was no ordinary mortal, but went by the name of Frederick John Perry!

If the stripling’s jaw had dropped, a bigger surprise was in store. The legend himself handed over a full-fledged kit to the youth, already rendered speechless, and quietly left. The gift was a reward for Misra surviving three five-set qualifying rounds, accounting for an American, an Australian and a South African, to make the main draw of the 1964 Wimbledon tennis championships.

The youngster’s joy knew no bounds when he saw the initials SPM embossed on each garment, also bearing the brand founded by the eight-time Grand Slam winner and world table tennis champion. Little surprise then that Misra dumped his racquet (now seemingly ramshackle) and other Indian equipment to don the latest designer range!

Rubbing shoulders

Back from the London Olympics as India’s captain and team leader, Misra got to rub shoulders with the greatest of tennis titans of all time. “Although he was staying away from the Olympic village, one could catch Roger Federer seated on a particular chair in the players’ restaurant on the top floor, with his wife sometimes or his entourage,” said the dapper Davis Cupper.

“The Swiss maestro came across as someone as human as ever, not the icon that he is. I saw him play cards when he had to wait for his game, and leave when he had finished,” recalled Misra, who on one occasion made the US Open’s round of 32.

No tantrums tarred his persona on court, as much as he kept to himself off it.

Within hand-shaking distance were Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick, besides Olympic women’s singles gold medallist Serena Williams.

Trouble-shooter sans pareil, Misra had doused the fires that ravaged the Indian team twice. “Few can match Leander Paes for focus and fitness. At the London Games, we’d hoped for podium places in men’s and mixed doubles, but unfortunately lost to teams which went on to win medals. Effort wasn’t lacking, but success eluded us,” he concluded.

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