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TENNIS | Amritraj, Paes and Evans — ITF Hall of Famers — honoured at Wimbledon

Vijay Amritraj, Leander Paes and Richard Evans, who were inducted into the 2024 International Tennis Hall of Fame, were honoured at an event during The Championships at Wimbledon on Thursday.

Former top 20 player and famous presenter Amritraj and renowned author and journalist Evans are in the contributors category, while 18-time Major champion and Olympic bronze medalist Paes is in the players category.

Interestingly, Paes was among the first trainees of the erstwhile Britannia Amritraj Tennis Academy (BAT) in Chennai and Evans is the co-author of Amritraj’s autobiography.

“What a privilege to watch this duo, who are naturally talented in a difficult sport,” Evans said of Amritraj and Paes. “There was grace, power and skill over a long period of time.

“And we media people couldn’t have asked for more accessible players. I’m honored to be sandwiched between these two Indians.”

Paes said it was the Amritraj family that shaped his tennis career and also recounted the first time he met Evans.

“I grew up watching these guys,” Paes said, pointing to Amritraj. “Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. At the time, I was on a football scholarship to a European club. Tennis was never on my mind.

“His brother Anand gave me an audition. I joined BAT on May 12, 1986. I went to church with their parents every Sunday. I am so proud of the history I shared with them.

“That May 12, Richard (Evans) was there too and he was writing Vijay’s autobiography. He asked me what I wanted to be and I said Olympic champion. He said if I worked hard I could be a tennis Hall of Famer too. It’s the biggest privilege for me to be sitting with them right now,” Paes added.

Amritraj said his entire tennis journey has been surreal. “These were all distant goals. I am amazed by my parents who actually dreamed and imagined things that we could not achieve.

“This (award) gave me a glimpse of my memory. My memories from 7 to 70 flashed before my eyes. When I played, there was always an Indian on Centre Court, not me. So this is India being honoured.”

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