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Former Davis Cupper Premjit Lall dead

Last updated on: December 31, 2008 23:01 IST

Former tennis star Premjit Lall, the hero of many Indian triumphs in the Davis Cup, on Wednesday passed away at his residence in Kolkata after prolonged illness.

Lal, who breathed his last this evening was 68 and is survived by two sons and a daughter. 

He met some of his friends on Wednesday at lunch and went to sleep in the afternoon. But in the evening, he had mouth bleeding and passed away, family sources said.

Born on October 20, 1940 in Kolkata, Lal constituted a formidable quartet along with the great Ramanathan Krishnan, Jaideep Mukerjea and S P Misra in the 1960s. 

If the sport now is associated with its 'oomph factor' now, it was Lall who started the trend bringing style and excellence together when he represented India from in 1960s and early 70s.

Lall, who played some memorable Grand Slam and Davis Cup matches for India, had been confined to the wheelchair following a crippling accident in 1992.

He first played for India in the Davis Cup in 1958-59, when he replaced Naresh Kumar who had to return home following a bereavement.

He was also a four-time national singles champion. 

The Kolkatan, who first caught the eye when he entered the Wimbledon Junior final in 1958, played in the Davis Cup between 1959 and 1973. He was bestowed with the country's highest sports honour, the Arjuna Award, in 1967.

Lall's Davis Cup record was impressive as he won 34 singles matches and lost 20 while winning 24 doubles matches while losing 12, mostly in partnership with Jaideep Mukerjea or Ramanathan Krishnan. 

His forehands and backhands were as menacing as his looks -- ask the legendary Australian Rod Laver, who was stretched to the fullest in a Wimbledon second round match before winning it in a marathon five-setter in 1960. 

He had a great following at Wimbledon for his delectable play. He had a lovely serve and was brilliant in the serve and volley game.

His funeral will take place on Thursday.

Speaking about the Lall's memorable match against Laver in 1960 Wimbledon championship, Mukherjea said, "It's best of matches, I have ever seen. He was leading two sets and was 4-4 in the third with some fantastic tennis. 

"However, he got tired and Laver was quick to spot as the Australian seized the initiative. He was little disappointed after the match.

"He never expected to play so well in the first set, he told me later. But he said he got tired eventually."     

Recalling their heydays, Mukerjea said, "We grew up together at South Club. We had a lot of good and bad experiences together. We have won lot of Davis Cup matches, European tour together."

"We won Indian National four times, represented India in Davis Cup for more than 10 years. In a year, we spent more than eight months travelling together. So he was more like my brother. It's a personal loss for me," he added.

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