Sumant Misra: Grandfather of Indian tennis

New Delhi: Sumant Misra, one of India`s early tennis legends and the first Indian tennis champion in 1946 during British rule, was aptly called the "grandfather of Indian tennis".

Misra, who passed away Saturday evening at the age of 88, represented India in the Davis Cup, besides playing at the Wimbledon and US Nationals in the pre-Open era of world tennis. He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.

Born in Faizabad in 1923, Misra was introduced to the game by his father, L.P. Misra, a former Chief Commissioner of Indian Railways.

A product of the famous South Club in Calcutta, then the nursery of Indian tennis which produced many tennis champions, Misra took to the game seriously at the age of 14 and from there on made rapid strides. Among his contemporaries were Narendra Nath, Man Mohan and Dilip Bose, and later on Ramanathan Krishnan.

In the first 10 years of India`s National Championships from 1946 to 1955, Misra was one of the only three Indians to win the title -- and he won it twice. In the first Nationals in 1946-47, he beat Man Mohan in the final. Misra later won the title a second time in 1952.

Ironically, Man Mohan, who also played Davis Cup with Misra, died in April this year in Chennai.

The other Indians who won the title were Dilip Bose in 1948 and the then upcoming 16-year-old Ramanathan Krishnan in 1953. On remaining occasions, well-known visiting foreign players took the title.

Misra, an imposing six-foot-two who was nicknamed `Tiny` by fellow players, was on the Indian Davis Cup team from 1947 to 1953 and captained the team in 1952-53.

The big-serving Misra played at both the Wimbledon and US Championships. With Jimmy Mehta, he reached the Wimbledon men`s doubles quarterfinals in 1947 and 1948, and also entered the last eight in the US national doubles in 1947. He also won the Ceylon and Malay Tennis Championships twice in 1958 and 1959.

During the course of his tennis career, Misra was the only player to participate in the junior national championship, the national championship and national veteran championship.

Misra also served as the secretary of the All India Tennis Association from 1963 to 1967, under the presidentship of M.A. Chidambaram. He also served as a selector for Davis Cup teams.

Misra worked in the Calcutta Port Trust and later retired from Indian Aluminium in the 1980s and was living in Delhi.

His elder son, Gaurav Misra, also won the national tennis championships, and played the Davis Cup for India. Gaurav is now the director of a tennis centre in the United States.

Post-retirement, Misra kept playing the sport into his 80s at the Delhi Gymkhana Club. He was also involved in the coaching programme of the All India Tennis Association and played both golf and squash.


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