Robert Amritraj, father of internationally acclaimed tennis players — Anand, Vijay and Ashok — died after a prolonged illness on December 10, the family disclosed on Friday. He was 91.
A familiar figure in and around tennis courts across the country and abroad, the Amritrajs, Robert and wife Maggie, were instrumental in shaping the glittering careers of each one of the brothers, among whom Vijay reached the highest echelons of tennis as player, administrator and commentator, apart from emerging as a brilliant raconteur.
Robert was not merely proud of his sons’ accomplishments, which he always conceded was the result of their hard work, dedication and determination. Indisputably, he contributed immensely in injecting that element of discipline which helped them climb the ladder of fame and fortune.
Hailing from Erode, Robert graduated from Madras Christian College with distinction. He was a gold medallist in English literature and a topper in the Civil Services Exams. He served Railways as an officer for 34 years, retiring as the Southern Railway Deputy General Manager.
As a father, Robert was passionate in the pursuit of the career options for his sons. He visited the newspaper offices everyday to update the results of tournaments played by the brothers, whether they were in Bristol, Brighton, Bournemouth, or anywhere on the Continent.
Despite not enjoying the benefits of modern technology he managed to obtain the results over phone or fax to feed the newspapers. This he did with enviable diligence until the international media shifted its focus on Anand and Vijay’s achievements.
Always attired in immaculate white, Robert was meticulous to the last detail, systematic in work and absolutely punctual. Even a few weeks before his death, he was attending Vijay and Ashok’s Chennai offices. Both are involved in the entertainment business.
Robert served as secretary of the State Tennis Association (in 1967 with E.P. Royappa as president) and played a crucial role in arranging the visit of Romanian stars Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac in the early seventies.
The Brittania-Amritraj Tennis Academy (BAT) mirrored eloquently Robert’s commitment to tennis. With Maggie as the livewire, Robert played an invaluable part in making BAT a professionally-run academy.
It is no secret that Robert Amritraj spent his life’s earnings on tennis for his sons.
“People say we are lucky, but we worked hard and now we’re reaping the benefits. We are a blessed family,” Robert told The Hindu in an interview eight years ago.
Indian tennis today is bereft of a father figure in the mould of Robert Amritraj.
The funeral service will be held at St. Theresa’s Church, Nungambakkam on Monday, December 17, at 2.30 p.m.
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