Amalgam of skill and tenacity

Tribute

B L Ramarao

The name B L Ramarao may not ring a bell for today’s generation of Karnataka tennis players, but for an old-timer like Vasanth Madhav he was no less a legend. Ramarao, a former State champion and winner of many other titles across India, breathed his last late last month after a brief illness and his death – quite unlike his style of play as Madhav describes it — went almost unnoticed.

 “He was one of those stalwarts of Karnataka tennis along with B R Kapanipathy, B S Sheshadri, N M Srinivas among others,” says Madhav,  a former State player who grew up idolising them in his home town Mysore.

Ramarao, who died 89, won the Karnataka State (then called Mysore) Tennis Championship in 1956 and was the top-ranked player in the State for several years. He was initiated into tennis by his father the late B Lingappaiah, who many say was responsible for bringing tennis to Mysore as early as 1920s. Himself a well-known player, Lingappaiah was a quite a sight when in action — he played barefoot wearing dhothi.

Ramarao’s love for tennis began at the age of 15 and he won several tournaments during his school and college days. He was the captain of the Mysore University team and represented Mysore in the inter-association tournaments between 1956-62, clinching many titles. He also won the all-India inter-state tournament in Amritsar in 1959-60 and from 1950 to late 60s, he was one of the more popular faces of Karnataka tennis.

 Madhav, who was not even half the age of Ramarao when he took to tennis, describes him as a canny player who was very difficult to pick. “He was in the mould of old tennis school though he was predominantly a baseliner. He was very quick on his feet and very accurate,” recalls Madhav, who as a 16-year-old won a doubles title along with the then 40-year-old Ramarao in Bijapur in the early 1960s.

 Ramarao was partly responsible in the establishment Mysore Tennis Club, but being a government servant he didn’t show much interest in the administrative affairs. “But he was willing to lend his helping hand whenever someone approached him for some assistance. He would always be ready with his inputs for younger players,” Madhav says.

Tenacious player

Ramarao, points out Madhav, wasn’t just skilful but a tenacious player as well. “I remember a match in a tournament in Mysore where Ramanathan Krishnan also participated in and won the title. But the highlight of the meet was Ramarao’s match against Tamil Nadu’s one Ramakrishna, it went on for three days! Each point was going for 40 to 50 rallies and people started complaining of neck pain,” Madhav remarks.

In recognition of Ramarao’s contribution to Mysore’s tennis, Cosmopolitan Club conferred him honorary membership of the club while the Mysore Dasara Sports Committee honoured him as an outstanding Tennis Sportsperson in 1992.

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