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Vijay Amritraj on his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame

It’s a special year for former tennis ace Vijay Amritraj who will be travelling to Rhode Island in the United States of America for his formal induction.

Screenshot 2024 02 08 034248BENGALURU: When tennis ace Vijay Amritraj first burst onto the international scene in the ’70s, India had been experiencing the golden era of tennis for over a decade. Yet, often regarded as India’s first superstar, the-then 21-year-old Amritraj, along with teammates Sashi Menon, Jasjit Singh, and others took India to the World Cup Finals for the second time in 1974.

With his classic serve-and-volley style, complemented by his intelligent strategic play on the court, Amritraj had a remarkable career during the ’70s and ’80s, with successes at Wimbledon and the US Open.

Nearly three decades since he said goodbye to the game professionally, the now 70-year-old is being recognised for his contributions, with an induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“The news came to me actually right the day before my birthday in December. So it was quite a birthday gift. The most important part of this induction into the Hall of Fame, especially in the Contributor category, is that it encompasses the entirety of one’s contributions to the sport over an extended period. At that moment, I had a flashback of my career,” says Amritraj, who was recently at the Leela Palace Bengaluru, taking part in a celebration in his honour.

The induction – to be held in July 2024 at Newport Casino, Rhode Island, United States, where the Hall of Fame is located – is even more special to Amritraj, because it’s where he lifted three of 16 singles trophies there. “And interestingly, it was during every [US] election year – in ’76, ’80 and ’84. Intriguingly, this induction also comes during an election year!

Newport is not just a location but a significant part of tennis history in the US, being the birthplace of American tennis.

Winning there three times, a record in itself, and now being inducted into the Hall of Fame in such a prestigious category, and as the only Asian, is incredibly humbling,” adds Amritraj, who alongside tennis, has had a successful career as an actor, with a notable appearance in the 1983 James Bond flick Octopussy as well as the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

‘No one deserves this accolade more than Rohan’

Reflecting on Rohan Bopanna’s recent triumph at the Australian Open, Amritraj says, “After I got married in ’83, there were comments like, ‘Oh, well, he is married, he’s not going to be able to win anymore.’ Winning again in ’84 proved those sceptics wrong. Rohan’s motivation to play at 43 is impressive. As one ages, physical capabilities change; routine tasks becomes more challenging.”

“In doubles tennis, however, there’s a significant advantage, offering a different set of challenges compared to singles. Rohan’s ability to stay motivated, despite frequent losses, is commendable. His passion and dedication are extraordinary,” he says, adding,

“More than his prowess on the court, Rohan is a remarkable individual and a fantastic ambassador for tennis in India. His pleasant nature and representation have made him a beloved and respected figure in the sport, both in India and globally. But more than anything, he’s a terrific guy, and no one deserves this accolade more than he does,” Amritraj said.

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