Naresh Kumar, who popularized young Leander Paes as India’s Davis Cup captain, has passed away. He was 93 years old. He is survived by wife Sunita, son Arjun and two daughters Geeta and Preah. Jaideep Mukherjee, who made his Davis Cup debut under Kumar, said, “He was suffering from age-related issues since last week. I was told that his chances of survival were not very good. I have lost a great mentor. ” PTI.
Born on December 22, 1928 in Lahore in undivided India, Kumar began his journey with tennis at the Asian Championships in 1949 before ruling Indian tennis with Ramanathan Krishnan for nearly a decade in the 1950s.
His Davis Cup journey began in 1952 and he captained.
His greatest career came three years later when he made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 1955 before losing to eventual champion and American No. 1 Tony Trabert.
Naresh Kumar has played a record 101 Wimbledon matches as an amateur.
He won five singles titles in his career – the Irish Championships (1952 and 1953), the Welsh Championships (1952), the Essex Championships at Frinton-on-Sea (1957), and his title the following year at the Wengen Tournament in Switzerland.
He played his last tournament at the Asian Championships in 1969.
In 1990, Kumar was instrumental in the inclusion of 16-year-old Leander Paes in the Davis Cup squad in their match against Japan as a non-playing Indian captain and the rest, as they say, is history.
Naresh Kumar, dressed in white trousers and a T-shirt, was a calming influence during some of the Davis Cup’s great years.
Emotional Kumar hugging Leander Paes after his fifth rubber win against France in Davis Cup quarter-finals in Fréjus (France), while Atul Premnarayan calling the moment for Doordarshan, a fond memory for all tennis lovers Will stay
Arjuna Awardee, Naresh Kumar became the first tennis coach to receive the Dronacharya Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.
“The best teachers teach from the heart, not the book – Sir Naresh Kumar was my first Davis Cup captain and his wisdom has been a beacon of light in my journey,” Paes said after meeting Dronacharya, his ‘Uncle Naresh’.
“A guru, a mentor and a confidant, he gave me wings to fly and fueled my passion to play for our country. I have come a long way in 30 years, yet my mentor, Naresh Kumar has inspired me What it has taught me has been with me on my journey.
“I am fortunate to have received the Lifetime Dronacharya Award for his contribution to India.” Mukherjee recalled how he started his tennis career watching him at the Calcutta South Club.
“When I started playing tennis at the age of 12-13, he was already a top player. Premjit Lal and I saw Naresh in our formative years.” “He has helped us a lot in our early years whenever we came back from Tours. I made my debut under his leadership in 1960 against Thailand.
“It was Naresh and me because (Ramanathan) Krishnan was suffering from smallpox. He helped me a lot in my sport. Later we became very good friends.” A true gentleman and always neatly dressed, Naresh Kumar was also a renowned sports commentator-cum-columnist, successful businessman, tropical aquarium fish breeder, art collector, horse racing fan.
He was also very close to Russi Modi, former chairman and managing director of Tata Steel, who died here in 2014.
“Apart from being a tennis player, he was also a very good tennis writer, a commentator before the days of TV,” Mukherjee recalled.
“I remember clearly, he was not in the team in 1956 when India played against Australia in the Davis Cup final in Melbourne. He did commentary in Hindi and in English,” he said.
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