What do Cesare and Paolo Maldini or Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve have in common? Whether they are Italian footballers or Canadian Formula One drivers, father-son sporting stars have always found a mention in the record books.
Olympian Milkha Singh and his golfer son Jeev’s stories are as well publicised as that of India’s leading Davis Cupper Leander Paes and his father Vece, who has an Olympic bronze in hockey from the 1972 Games.
India has always been proud of its Davis Cup heritage and records in the team competition have always been given the utmost importance.
The Krishnans — Ramanathan and son Ramesh — have achieved tremendous results in Cup competitions. But another father-son duo will set a record when the Group I Asia/Oceania tie gets under way on Friday.
When Zeeshan Ali, the current Davis Cup coach, steps on the centre court, he will emulate father Akhtar as the first father-son combination to have been players and coaches of the Indian Davis Cup team.
This achievement is most likely to be the first ever because, when asked, the International Tennis Federation responded, “No easy way to verify this but it should be pointed out that captain is an official Davis Cup position, but not all teams would have coaches.”
“Are you serious? It’s huge!” is how Zeeshan described the feeling. “Now, I'm getting goose bumps!” he added, smiling broadly after the draw ceremony on Thursday.
Akhtar, who had been the coach of the Cup team for several decades (with a few years missing in between) couldn’t have been prouder.
Sitting on the sidelines during the team practice session, he reminisced. “The roles have been reversed today!
Earlier, I would be on the court with a young Zeeshan sitting in the gallery,” said the super-active father, who still coaches on a daily basis in Kolkata.
“All Zeeshan needs now is the cooperation of the players. He'll need another few years to build up the team. He’s dedicated, hardworking and will prove to be an asset.”
The South Korea tie also made Zeeshan and Paes nostalgic. After all, Paes made his Davis Cup debut with the then 20-year-old Zeeshan against Japan in 1990.
And, after a gruelling fight, India won 18-16 in the final set. “That’s exactly what we were discussing,” Zeeshan claimed.
“Who knew that 23 years later, Leander and I would be back together again? Let’s hope we can recreate the old magic against the opponents.”