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The man that brought you CTL: 6 reasons Vijay Amritraj is India's hero

ANALYST
2.90K   //    28 Nov 2014, 20:13 IST
Vijay Amritraj, the face of the Champions Tennis League.

If India had to name its most revered ambassador of tennis, it surely has to be the man that made the Champions Tennis League possible: Mr Vijay Amritraj. Here’s why:â??

1. Success Story

Amritraj, 60, spotlighted India on the international tennis stage in his heyday. Hailing from Chennai, he helped his country reach the finals of the prestigious Davis Cup in 1974 and 1987 , and reached an all-time career ranking high of No. 16 in the world in 1980. He has also won 16 single career titles and had an impressive win-loss record of 390-302.

Amritraj received the coveted Arjuna Award in 1974 and the Padma Shri in 1983.

2. Beating the best

Aside from the already long list of accomplishments above, Amritraj reached the quarterfinal of the U.S. Open in 1973 and 1974 and the quarterfinal of Wimbledon in 1973 and 1981. And he achieved the seemingly impossible: he triumphed over the legendary likes of Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and John Newcombe.

Amritraj talks to the camera at a CTL match on November 23.

3. Face of International Sports

Elected for five terms as the President of ATP Tour Player Council and appointed as the lead anchor and host of ESPN Star Sports for Wimbledon, U.S. Open and PGA events, he has been India’s face of the international sports scene.

4. U.N.Messenger of peace

Amritraj’s inspiring repute extends beyond the game. In 2001, he was appointed as the U.N. Messenger of Peace, raising awareness on and funds for the combat of drug abuse and fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS.

During his appointment, he went to Gujarat after an earthquake devastated the state on January 26, 2001, visiting makeshift schools. He also travelled to Sri Lanka, to see a camp set up for internally displaced people outside of Colombo.

Towards the end of his career, Amritraj established the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy to nurture and develop aspiring young players, which offers training, funding and even boarding and lodging.

â??5. Recieving through giving

He also set up his charitable foundation, the Vijay Amritraj Foundation, in 2006. Its mission statement states its purpose of helping defenseless victims of disease, tragedy and circumstance in India.

The foundation has funded a whole host of charities and is supported by the likes of former U.S. President, George H.W. Bush, former Under Secretary General of the U.N., Shashi Tharoor and the former head of the British armed forces, General the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank.

Amritraj takes a swing of the racquet at a CTL match on November 23.

6. Champions Tennis League

Of course, the fact that he made his CTL vision a reality is another reason why he is India’s hero of the sport. Amritraj has not just hung his tennis shoes and sat back to marvel at his successes, he’s invested time and effort to give back to the game and to his country.

And although it was a rare privilege to witness veterans of the sport, including Pat Cash, Venus Williams and Martina Hingis, play in India, they were not the only stars of the sporting show. At the heart of the league, and Amritraj’s intentions, was promotion of the sport at a grass-root level.

Amritraj said: “The two young players, a boy and a girl, would fill out the roster, and for me this is particularly important as it gives youngsters an opportunity to learn from this amazing experience.”

Originally published on the Champions Tennis League website here.

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