Naresh Kumar belonged to the league of Indian players of the 1950s and mentored several junior players including Leander Paes.
Naresh Kumar was an India Tennis stalwart. He belonged to the Indian Tennis brigade of the 1950s who made valuable contribution to Indian sport by winning international matches and later mentored a pool of next generation players.
Naresh Kumar, born in 1928 in Lahore, represented India in 17 Davis Cup ties. He made his debut in 1952, played for eight consecutive years, and notched up an overall 26-20 win-loss record. He was both the playing and non-playing captain of Indian Davis Cup team in different phases.
Naresh Kumar reached the semi final in his first tournament at the Indian International Championships in 1949. After that there were a series of disappointments with final match losses at Northern Championships in England and East of England Championships in 1949, Bombay tournament in 1950, Ceylon Championships in Nuwara Eliya and Midland Counties Championship in England in 1951.
In 1952, he won his first title at the Irish Championships and defended it in 1953. He also won men’s singles title at the Welsh Championships in 1952. In 1957 he won the singles title at the Essex Championships at Frinton-on-Seaand in 1958 he won his fifth and last singles title at the Wengen tournament in Switzerland.
Naresh Kumar reached the fourth round at Wimbledon Singles in 1955 which he lost in straight sets to the No. 1 seed and eventual champion Tony Trabert. He was also a four-time doubles quarter-finalist at the All England Club, in 1953, 1955 and 1958 partnering Ramanathan Krishnan. He played his final tournament at the Asian Championships in 1969.
After being appointed as the non-playing captain of Indian Davis Cup team, Kumar mentored several players. He played a vital role in developing the careers of his juniors. Jaidip Mukerjea, who got a chance to play under Naresh Kumar in his debut Davis Cup in 1960, remembered him as his captain who always motivated him.
The iconic Calcutta South Club, that was once the hub of Indian Tennis, was home to Naresh Kumar.There he met and interacted with young players, played with them and encouraged them. Naresh Kumar was also a key figure in the rise of Leander Paes afted inducting him in the Davis Cup team.
Naresh Kumar was awarded the Dronacharya Award in 2020, becoming the first Tennis coach to receive the award. At 93, this legendary India Tennis player breathed his last in Kolkata leaving his wife Sunita son Arjun and two daughters- Gita andPreah behind.