Naresh Kumar, mentor of Paes and many others, passes away at 93 | Tennis News

KOLKATA: Indian tennis lost its most loving ‘sir’ as Naresh Kumar passed away at the age of 93 in the city on Wednesday. He is survived by wife Sunita, son Arjun and two daughters – Gita and Preah.
Born on December 22, 1928 in Lahore in undivided India, Kumar belonged to that generation of Indian players who did well in the international arena along with Dilip Bose, Sumanta Mishra, Ramanathan Krishnan and others in the 1950 and 60s.
However, he will perhaps be better remembered as a coach mainly because of playing a big part in nurturing and mentoring one of India’s all-time great players Leander Paes. Hailing from the same city, while Kumar was ‘sir’ to all other budding players across the country, he remained the evergreen ‘Naresh uncle’ to Paes. In 1990, it was Kumar as a non-playing captain who unleashed a raw talent by including a 16-year-old Paes in the Davis Cup team. The Olympian had time and again returned to his uncle for guidance and advice throughout his playing career. “The best teachers teach from the heart and not from the book,” Paes had said about Kumar.
No wonder, Kumar became the first tennis coach to receive Dronacharya Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 apart from winning the Arjuna Award too. His eight-year long Davis Cup journey started in 1952 as he went on to captain the side while developing a formidable partnership with Ramanathan Krishnan. Kumar began and ended his tennis journey at the Asian Championships playing it for the first time in 1949 and ending it in 1969. As an amateur, Kumar has played an Indian record number of 101 Wimbledon matches making it to the singles main draw for nine consecutive years with his best coming in 1955 when he reached the pre-quarterfinals before losing to the eventual champion and American No. 1 Tony Trabert.
He also reached the third round of the French Open in 1958. In the doubles, he made the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 1953, 1955 and 1958. He won a total of five career titles that included Irish Championships (1952, 53), Welsh Championships (1952), Essex Championships (1957) and the Wengen tournament in Switzerland in 1958.
Another Indian Davis Cup star Jaidip Mukerjea, who made his Cup debut under Kumar’s captaincy, was candid when he stated “Premjjit Lal and I looked up to Naresh in our formative years.” Definitely the duo was the not the only ones inspired by him in Indian tennis. Impeccably dressed and soft spoken, Kumar was a true gentleman. Described as a man of culture, Kumar felt at home at two of his favourites places – the All England Club and South Club near his Kolkata home. His list of friends stretched from artist Maqbool Fida Husain to England cricket great Ted Dexter. The latter along with her wife Susan, who was born in Kolkata, used to stay at Kumar’s house during their visits to the city.

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