Akhtar Ali, a former Davis Cup coach and a legendary figure in Indian tennis, died on Sunday due to multiple health issues, including recently detected prostate cancer. Akhtar, father of India’s current Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali, was 83 and breathed his last in Kolkata. Akhtar, whose coaching style emphasised on playing aggressive serve and volley game, shaped many careers, including that of the legendary Leander Paes apart from his own son Zeeshan.
His coaching also influenced Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan. Akhtar played eight Davis Cup ties between 1958 and 1964 and also captained and coached the Indian team. According to family sources, he was taken to a city hospital two weeks ago where doctors noticed a lump in his chest and also prostate cancer. He was already suffering from dementia and parkinson’s disease. Doctors advised against any cancer therapies because of his frail condition. West Bengal Chief Minister penned a heartfelt tribute to the tennis veteran.
Saddened to hear about the passing of Akhtar Ali, a true tennis legend. ‘Akhtar Sir' coached many of India’s tennis champions. We conferred Bengal’s highest sporting award on him in 2015. I was fortunate to always receive his warm affection. Condolences to his family and admirers— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) February 7, 2021
Saddened to hear about the passing of Akhtar Ali, a true tennis legend. ‘Akhtar Sir' coached many of India’s tennis champions. We conferred Bengal’s highest sporting award on him in 2015. I was fortunate to always receive his warm affection. Condolences to his family and admirers. “Akhtar Ali was terrific as a coach both when I was a junior as well as coach of our India Davis Cup team. Always pushed hard n kept the team relaxed. He did great service to Indian Tennis. RIP dear Aktar. Sincere condolences to Zeeshan n his lovely family,” the legendary Vijay Amritraj tweeted. Former Davis Cupper Somdev Devvarman recalled him as a passionate taskmaster. “One of the first times I threw up during practice was with Akhtar sir at the South club in the summer of 1999. He always gave it his best and taught us to do the same. RIP Akhtar Ali, legend of Indian tennis,” he tweeted.