Friday, December 14, 2007

Ramanathan Krishnan: India’s Tennis Legend.

Today’s newspapers carry a report from Kula Lumpur stating that the renowned Indian tennis player Ramanathan Krishnan was awarded Lifetime Achievement Award by the Asian Sports Press Union. On reading it, my mind went back to a print media report on the Wimbledon Championships in 1956 – 51 years back.

Centre Court. First round match. The1954 champion, J. Drobny seeded 5 and the crowd’s idol was playing a 19 year old from India, R. Krishnan. The youngster had won the Wimbledon boys crown two years earlier, but nobody gave him a chance against the Czechoslovak-born veteran left-hander who was making his 13th appearance at the All England Championships.

Krishnan took the first set 6-1. Drobny the next at 6-4 to equalize but there was nothing more he could do. The Indian won the next two at 6-1, 6-4. It was the greatest moment in Indian tennis since Independence notwithstanding Dilip Bose’s Asian Championship triumph in 1949 and subsequent seeding (15) at Wimbledon.

In the pre-Independence era, India had done well in tennis. The 1920s saw a string of victories by the Indians, particularly in the Davis Cup. The top players at that time were M. Saleem, AH Fayzee and AA Fayzee (brothers), Cotah Ramaswamy and Krishna Prasad. They triumphed over players from France, Romania, Holland, Belgium. Spain, and Greece. M. Saleem also reached the singles semi-finals in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Then there was Ghouse Mohammed who reached the last eight at Wimbledon in 1939.

But Krishnan surpassed them all. He reached Wimbledon semi-finals in two successive years, was 4th seeded there once, and was ranked No.3 in the world. He spearheaded India’s entry into the Davis Cup finals in 1966; we lost 4-1. The match that we won was doubles in which Krishnan and J Mukerjea beat Newcombe and Tony Roche the previous year’s Wimbledon Doubles Champions. Krishnan’s Davis Cup record is outstanding, winning 50 out of 69 matches in singles and 19 out of 29 in doubles.

A grateful nation honored the tennis ace with the Arjuna Award, Padma Shree, and Padma Bhusan. Salaam, Krishnan!


Also see:

Tennis: Leander Paes, the Indian Hero

Hockey days in Bangalore


Maddy said...

I was a bit sad that ramesh was never driven like his dad..

Guru said...

The then Mysore Maharajah Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, it was said, funded Krishnan's first trip to Wimbledon in London.

In his days he was a 'touch player' but lacked the all round abilities of Rod Laver particularly in the serving department. Neither was he as superb a returner of service as Connors who was not a strong server. Krishnan met players who epitomised these abilities.

One needs either a strong service or strong return or both, a very good game plan and above all 'a killer instict' to win Wimbledon. Connors had all these when he defeated Rosewall who had an awesome return weapon to win his first title.

Baby Ramesh was a mirror image of his father at a time when serve and volley game was firmly established. This was his downfall.

ER Ramachandran said...

Thanks for a nice post.I still remember when we were 2 matches down in a Davis cup tie and came up to 5th match.In the decider when Ramanathan Krishnan was down two sets to nil facing champinoship point, won the point made it two sets all and won the cliffhanging 5th set. If memory serves me right it was either Coch or Mandarino.I think it was against Czec.Somebody could correct me...