Vijay Amritraj — star of the night and toast of the gathering

Vijay Amritraj.

Vijay Amritraj.

It was a night of elegance, nostalgia and celebration as Chennai raised a toast to one of its favourite sons, a national icon and global ambassador, all rolled into one. At the Leela Palace here on Monday, Vijay Amritraj was feted for his elevation in to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which most among the assembled gathering felt came a touch late to a man who deserves all the accolades and more.

A tennis icon, broadcaster, actor, champion of social causes and sports administrator, Amritraj is a star of many parts. However, deep down he is a quintessential Chennai boy with academic roots in Don Bosco School and Loyola College. And this was the return of the native as the who’s who of this Southern metropolis rallied around to cherish him.

Tamil Nadu’s Minister for Youth Development and Sports Welfare Udhayanidhi Stalin effusively lauded the sporting legend to set the tone for a night of appreciation. Chess maestro Viswanathan Anand said: “Whatever I tried to do, Vijay had been there before.”

Amritraj’s India team-mate Ramesh Krishnan spoke about the deep ties between the two families and elder brother Anand elaborated about a childhood of dreams and naughty streaks.

The night truly belonged to Amritraj who thanked the audience with his customary wit and grace, and said: “I owe it to my parents, they were two ordinary people who did extraordinary things with me.”

And to cap it all, Boris Becker sent across a video message and said his prefix ‘boom boom’ was coined by his friend Vijay. It was that kind of night, of delicate verbal drop shots coated with an enduring affection.

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