Tennis

A cup every player aspired to lift

At one time, the Stanley Cup in the Bertram tournaments constituted thebenchmark for any aspiring young tennis talent. Ramanathan Krishnan, in fact, went on to become a star at the international level. Photo: The Hindu Archives  

The Stanley Cup (tennis singles), initiated in 1934 in the Bertram memorial tournaments and organised (without a break) by Loyola College, has a history that few other inter-college/schools tournaments in India can boast of.

Slowly and steadily, the Cup seems to have lost its relevance, with proliferation of junior (national & international) tournaments with more prize money and ranking points.

Ramanathan Krishnan recalls with great enthusiasm his entry to the Bertram tournament. Having moved to Chennai from Tenkasi for better prospects along with his sister and father T. K. Ramanathan, Krishnan’s life took a major turn.

“I was in the fifth form (before SSLC) when we moved to Madras as a 13-year-old of Ramakrishna Mission High School in May 1950. Till then, Bertram tournaments were meant for college students.

“We were tenants in GN Chetty Road (T. Nagar) at that time. Vaikundam, the owner’s son, who was a student of Loyola, pleaded with Principal (Mr. Gordon) and Mr. Perreira (Sports Secretary) to include me. Perreira was fed up and gave in because of our persuasion,” he says.

Krishnan went on to win the Cup without losing a set thereby making history, and went on to bag the Cup many more times as student of Loyola. “That was the beginning of my (tennis) career,” says the 77-year-old.

Touch play

The tradition was taken forward by the Amritraj brothers. The elder of the two, Anand regaled the audience with his touch play, winning the Cup as a school boy (Don Bosco, Egmore) in the mid 60s.

“My biggest moment was when I beat C. G. K.  Bhupathi (Loyola) in a tough-five setter in the final in 1968; the previous year I beat my younger brother Vijay Amritraj (both represented Loyola) in the summit clash.”

Ramesh Krishnan, former India tennis star, says winning the Cup in 1975 as a student of Vidya Mandir was “a big thing for us in school.”

M. Sathiyaseelan, the Physical Education Director of Loyola for more than two decades from 1974, says Stanley reflected Wimbledon in so many ways. “Whatever Wimbledon did we imitated it,” he says.

Chandrasekaran recalls (in the mid 70s) how the event used to be a draw of 128 similar to Grand Slams. “We used to jokingly say how Stanley Cup was Madras’s Wimbledon.”

Hiten Joshi, CEO of Tamil Nadu Tennis Association, and a former champion, says the tournament was a major event in an era when there were not many junior tournaments.

As the tournament entered the 90s standards further dipped, but the halo associated with the event continued. Former National champions Vinod Sridhar and Vijay Kannan, winners of the Cup, say they played the tournament with a lot of pride keeping in mind its hallowed history.

For all its drawbacks, Bertram tournaments organisation has seldom been questioned. Says Coimbatore-based K.G. Ramesh, a former National-level player, says it has always been a well-organised tournament.

Explaining the dip in the standards, S. Vijayakumar, Physical Education Director of Loyola (for the last 10 years), took an example of his own student, Ramkumar Ramanathan, an international player, who is busy competing in International tournaments around the globe in a bid to improve his ATP (international) rankings, to drive home his point. “Ramkumar hasn’t represented the College in two years in Bertram as he is in Chennai only for 20-30 days a year,” he says.

( A fortnightly look at the sporting scene in Chennai)


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 5:43:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/a-cup-every-player-aspired-to-lift/article6427993.ece

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