They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

All posts regarding past greats should be made under this heading.

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They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby PKBasu » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:06 pm

This thread is dedicated to those Indian tennis players who fell marginally short of reaching the top echelon of their sport. Several of them had brief moments of magic.

I start with Chiradeep Mukherjea, who I remember playing regularly on (and dominating) the domestic tennis circuit in the 1970s. I also remember that it was prominently known that he had chosen to remain an amateur, and instead pursue a non-tennis career. But in 1973, he had an excellent year in singles, making the second round at Wimbledon, the quarter-final at Nottingham (beating the strong Italian Paolo Bertolucci) and the second round at Bournemouth and Bombay. After that, he rarely ventured out of India, but kept winning a round at the Indian Open, as late as 1977 (when he was 25). He and Bhanu Nunna made the final of the Indian Open doubles in 1976, and qualified into the Wimbledon doubles draw in 1977.

Jaykumar Royappa had his big year on tour in 1978, when he made the second round at Wimbledon (losing to Gerulaitis), R1 at Newport, R2 at New Orleans, and won a number of rounds on the Challenger circuit in the US through the rest of the year. He ended the year ranked 207, but didn't really pursue his dream much beyond this. He had also qualified into the singles main draw at Wimbledon in 1976.

Ashok Amritraj was the Wimbledon junior singles runner-up in 1975, but lost in R1 of ATP tour events in New Orleans, Calcutta, and South Orange, NJ that year. His big moment was making the QF of the Indian Open in Bangalore in 1976, but he lost in R1 of seven ATP tour events through the rest of the year. He made the doubles SF in Little Rock (with Vijay) in 1976, and had some splendid doubles success in 1977 -- making the SF in St. Louis (with the legendary Ken Rosewall, then aged 42) and Bombay (with Roger Taylor, with a great win over the Gullikson brothers), the PQF in the US Open, and R2 in San Francisco, Oviedo and Laguna Niguel, apart from losing R1 matches at Wimbledon, Newport, Springfield (MA), Los Angeles, Cincinnati -- a full year of doubles action. Had doubles rankings existed then, he would have been in the top-100 for sure in 1977 and also in 1978. The latter year, he made the doubles SF in Calcutta (with Anand) and the Challenger in Lincoln (NB), and QFs at ATP tour stops in Los Angeles, Cologne and Basle (with Vijay) as well as Miami and Little Rock. But the same year (1978), he won just one tour singles match (against Vijay!), and then lost first round matches in a string of challengers as well as a close one in R1 of the tour event in Calcutta. In 1979, Ashok had one singles win on the tour (in Bombay, where he lost to Vijay in R2) and made doubles QFs in Bombay, Maui and Columbus. By then, he was playing Team Tennis quite successfully (single sets seemed to suit him better) and soon thereafter Ashok Amritraj moved from tennis to film production, where he has been hugely successful.   
Last edited by PKBasu on Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby Sandeep » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:15 pm

PKB, your knowledge of Tennis(and sports in general) is outstanding :notworthy: . Great post and a nice thread. 

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby gbelday » Tue Oct 03, 2006 2:11 pm

Thanks PKB.  What ever happened to the South Orange, NJ tourney/challenger?  I live at a stone throws distance from South Orange Arena :(

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby BSharma » Tue Oct 03, 2006 3:42 pm

Thanks PKB.  Where else but at Sports-India (courtesy of PKB) will one get lessons on Indian tennis history.  :D

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby jai_in_canada » Tue Oct 03, 2006 6:41 pm

A couple of more names - Shanker Krishnan, S.P. Misra, R. Elangovan.

Shanker is Ramesh's cousin, and older.  He obviously never reached the same heights as Ramesh, but for a while he hung with Ramesh - until the latter was 15 or so.  Many theories abound as to why this happened, including family politics etc.  I remember him reaching the semis of the National Hardcourt Championships in 1975 or 1976.

S.P.  Misra actually did quite well domestically in the late '50s, 60s and even into the early '70s.  Played Davis Cup for India for several years.  Was in the legendary team that played the Davis Cup finals against Australia  - can't remember the exact year.  That team included Ramanathan Krishnan, Jaideep Mukherjee, and Premjit Lal.  These guys were befriended by Arthur Ashe, and Ashe helped them out by practising with them in the days before the final.  They stayed in touch ever since, and were thrilled when Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975.

R. Elangovan did well in the Satellite circuit, winning a number of them in India in the late 70s.  But his game did not quite take off.  He was left handed with a wicked slice serve, powerful topspun forehand, but his backhand was adequate at best.
Last edited by jai_in_canada on Tue Oct 03, 2006 6:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby PKBasu » Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:01 am

I remember Shankar Krishnan, Ramesh's cousin, come up the junior ranks along with him. Shankar was about 2-3 years older, and used to usually win the under-16 and under-18 national titles when Ramesh was 12-15. When Ramesh was 16, though, I think he beat Shankar in the under-18 national final, and in the men's national semifinal (in a pretty close match). Then Ramesh went on to beat Royappa in the national final that year (at age 16), and there was never any real comparison between them thereafter.
Shanker rarely travelled outside India to play tournaments (playing just the occasional Challenger in Europe, and the obligatory Indian Open), but until about 1979 he and Ramesh made a good doubles pair.

I don't think family politics had anything much to do with their different career trajectories. Ramesh started winning the national under-16 title when he was 13, and his precocious talent was evident in the fact that he was competitive against his older cousin by the time he was 14 or 15 (and Shanker was 16-18). Shanker just decided not to pursue a tennis career once Ramesh had broken onto the national scene and was poised to make the big leap internationally. I have been intrigued by Shanker Krishnan's name, though: in the Tamil way, he would not have had the same name as Ramesh, since their fathers couldn't both have been called Krishnan! (Ramanathan was RK's father's name, and Ramesh should really have been called Krishnan Ramesh; his name order was changed for the western world's convenience, but does anyone know how Shanker Krishnan got his name? I don't have the answer to that one...).

As for Elangovan, he was my favourite in the trio of Nandan Bal, Enrico Piperno and him that dominated our domestic tennis in the 1980s. None of them quite made it internationally, but they were unassailable at home -- except for a brief period when a pair of Bhargava brothers suddenly threatened their supremacy (until they equally suddenly vanished from the domestic tennis scene).

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby PKBasu » Wed Oct 04, 2006 2:19 pm

Zeeshan Ali's story is one of the saddest in Indian tennis history. He reached a career-high ranking of 126 in singles in early-December 1988 (when he was still 3 weeks short of his 19th birthday), and remained in the top-150 (with the exception of a couple of weeks) through August 1989. His singles highlights in 1988 included making R2 of the ATP tour event in Schenectady (losing to Kriek in R2) and at the Seoul Olympics (where he lost to Hlasek in R2), and making the final of a Challenger in New Haven, CT (where he beat good players like Glenn Layendecker and Luke Jensen but lost to 35 year old Vijay Amritraj in the final!) and the semifinal of a Challenger in Indonesia. But he also had a lot of R1 losses in Challengers during the year, making R2 of only one other Challenger (in Nigeria). This decent set of performances had taken Zeeshan to 178 in the singles rankings in November 1988, but he then dominated a Satellite circuit in India -- and jumped to a career-high 126 on 12th December 1988. (He had also done well in a Satellite circuit in India the previous year around the same time, and that had taken his ranking from the 800s to 451 by end-December; when those points fell off, Zeeshan finished 1988 at #146). At the end of 1988, Zeeshan's doubles ranking was also a decent 154.
By the end of 1989, however, his singles rank had plummeted to 275 (from 181 in early-December) as those Satellite points fell off, and his doubles rank also fell to 225. By the end of 1990, he was in the 500s and his pro career was over (and Zeeshan wasn't even 21 then!). In 1989, Zeeshan made the QF of a Challenger in Nigeria early in the year, and then qualified into tour events in Key Biscayne, Tokyo (where he beat Leif Sheiras before losing to Edberg in R2), Singapore, London (Queen's Club) AND Wimbledon (where he lost in straight sets to Wally Masur). But having won only one match on the tour until that point, Zeeshan wisely switched to playing more Challengers: he made R2 of Challengers in Beijing, Jakarta and Singapore, and the QF in Hong Kong (while losing in R1 at KL); but he was the top seed in all these, so he was being upset in every tournament. He did play the tour event in Brisbane, but lost to Woodbridge in R1. Zeeshan should not (at just 19 years of age) have been so disheartened by these performances, but he clearly was and his pro career basically ended in 1990, with three R2 Challenger performances (two in Nairobi, Kenya, and one in Kuala Lumpur).

Zeeshan should have tried to ride more on his doubles performances: in 1989, he made R2 of doubles at Wimbledon (losing to the seeded pair of Curren/Pate in four sets), and WON two Challenger doubles titles (in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing). In 1988, he had also made R2 of the Wimbledon doubles (with Mark Ferreira, son of the billiards great), two Challenger doubles finals (one with Mark) and four Challenger semi-finals (one of them with 37 year old Anand Amritraj). Even in 1990, he won a Challenger doubles title (in Winnetka, IL) and made another Challenger doubles final (in Kenya), although playing a much lighter schedule. But after 1991, Zeeshan was mainly playing Futures and Satellites (plus only the occasional Challenger) in India and SE Asia. He had given up bigger tennis ambitions. Mismanagement of his career when he was 18-20 was probably responsible: he should have focused on developing his skills more than playing a regular tour schedule. Husbanding financial resources would also have been an important consideration during those years.
Last edited by PKBasu on Wed Oct 04, 2006 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby PKBasu » Thu Oct 05, 2006 11:35 am

Gaurav Misra was another one from Chiradeep Mukherjea's era who was a dominant player on the domestic scene but didn't really venture out internationally -- apart from 1973, the year when the boycott of Wimbledon by 15 of the world's top-19 pros created some interesting opportunities. In 1973, Gaurav qualified into Wimbledon and Newport, and also won a round at the Indian Open in Delhi. He also lost in R1 of the doubles main draw of Wimbledon in 1973. But that was it: he didn't appear much more on the international circuit, although he won the national title several times. I remember him turning up in Bangladesh around 1978 and winning their national championship as well! Later I believe we became a very successful coach in the US, and I recall him doing well at grass court veterans tourneys in Philadelphia in the late-1980s. According to the ATP, there was someone called Akshai Misra who had a top ranking of 158 in 1974: I've never heard that name, so I suspect it is Gaurav Misra they mean!
Gaurav Misra also had a rather flattering 6-2 record in the Davis Cup between 1968 and 1971, albeit one compiled mainly against Asian teams like Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Last edited by PKBasu on Thu Oct 05, 2006 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby PKBasu » Thu Oct 05, 2006 11:54 am

Jai mentions SP (Shiv Prakash) Misra, a member of the famous team that made the Davis Cup final (then called the Challenge Round) in 1966. In those days, the holder of the Davis Cup just waited all year for the Challenger to emerge -- and India beat Germany in the Inter-Zonal semifinal and Brazil in the Inter-Zonal final to go up against Australia in the Challenge Round (losing 1-4 in Australia, with Krishnan and Mukerjea playing all 5 matches but winning only the doubles over the biggest name of all, Newcombe/Roche). India had lost to Spain (in Spain) the previous year in the Inter-Zonal final (although playing against Santana and Gisbert in Spain on clay would have challenged anyone in the world at the time!).
SP Misra had a 18-2 record in Davis Cup (!), but he (and others like Venkatesan) was used primarily in the matches against Asian opponents -- while the Big-2 (Krish, Jaidip) or Big-3 (add Premjit Lall) played against the big guns (Japan, Australia and the Inter-Zonal opponents).

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby jai_in_canada » Thu Oct 05, 2006 5:55 pm

Yes, PKB, SP Misra does have decent numbers from DC, but they are from zonal competition.  I had forgotten about the Challenge Round.  Misra also played Wimbledon for a number of years in the '60s.  Played the main draw at Wimby.  I don't believe he competed abroad much more than that because he detested travel.  Today, he still plays seriously competitive club tennis at Secunderabad Club, gets interviewed in the local media each time Sania makes the news, and speaks of the good old days of wooden rackets, white felt balls, white flannels, and canvas shoes.  Boy, has the game changed!!

BTW, there was also Sumant Mishra (no relation to Shiv Prakash), and Ghouse Mohammed from Hyderabad, who I believe is the first Indian to reach the Quarterfinals at Wimbledon in the '40s.  Both stalwarts in the annals of Indian Tennis history, who flitted briefly upon the world stage.

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby PKBasu » Thu Oct 05, 2006 6:08 pm

Ghouse Mohammad's presence in international tennis was certainly more than flitting, including making the quarter-final at Wimbledon. Dilip Bose, around the same time, was the first Indian to be seeded at Wimbledon. And Sumant Mishra's legendary good looks -- apart from his tennis -- made him a huge favourite in his time. (I knew his daughters, one of whom was in Delhi's St. Stephen's College tennis team when I was there). I used to hear about Sumant Mishra from my mom, and used to think he was the same person as SP Misra (whose photos I'd seen in the 1966 Davis Cup squad), until Bhushan talked in one of these threads about seeing SP Misra play (which led me to the realisation that Sumant was a different Mishra!).
We've covered some of these genuinely Golden Oldies in the original thread of that name, including their Davis Cup records. 

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby arjun2761 » Thu Oct 05, 2006 7:49 pm

Mastercard can buy a lot of things but these vignettes from PKB are priceless...

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby BSharma » Thu Oct 05, 2006 7:55 pm

Arjun,

I could not have said it better.  :notworthy: to PKB and Arjun.

PKB wrote:
In those days, the holder of the Davis Cup just waited all year for the Challenger to emerge -- and India beat Germany in the Inter-Zonal semifinal and Brazil in the Inter-Zonal final to go up against Australia in the Challenge Round (losing 1-4 in Australia, with Krishnan and Mukerjea playing all 5 matches but winning only the doubles over the biggest name of all, Newcombe/Roche).


I can still remember listening to All India Radio commentary and jumping with joy when Krishnan and Mukherjea won the doubles match.  India was expected to lose all five matches and no one expected the Indian doubles team to pull off that upset victory.

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby knarayen » Sat Aug 16, 2008 10:08 am

Actually, if I remember correctly, Sumant Mishra was Gaurav Mishra's father. I remember watching Gaurav play when I was very young; he had a great serve as I recall. His first and second serves were of equal speed, and he was a good serve-volleyer when he needed to be. These things influenced me greatly when I was growing up, as did SP Mishra's serve action, which I diligently impersonated as I was building my game during those days in the early 60's.

Prof

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Re: They flitted briefly upon the tennis world's stage...

Postby PKBasu » Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:55 am

Yes, Prof, I think you are right that Gaurav Misra is Sumant's son. Thanks for those insights into Gaurav's game. He now lives and coaches somewhere in the US, I believe. There were two brothers IIRC, and two much younger sisters (one of whom was a year senior to me in college and played national-level tennis, and another my contemporary in a different Delhi college).


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