The new Wimbledon junior champion Samir Banerjee’s Hyderabad connection

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The Banerjees: Samir Banerjee (left), Usha Banerjee and Kunal Banerjee. Photo: By Special Arrangement

 

Samir Banerjee, the 17-year-old Indian-American who won the junior Wimbledon crown on July 11 and had discerning tennis fans across the world sit up and take notice, has a Hyderabad connection. The six-foot-two-inch New Jersey resident who beat his compatriot Victor Lilov in straight sets 7-5, 6-3 has a close affinity to the city of Hyderabad: His mother Usha Banerjee is from the city.

Samir Banerjee’s mother was born in Visakhapatnam but moved to Hyderabad when she was in the kindergarten. She had her schooling at St Ann’s High School and grew in Tarnaka, Secunderabad. After her schooling, she emplaned for the United States for her higher education in the late 1980s, where she met and married the Assam-born Kunal Banerjee. The Banerjee family has made the U.S. their home since the late 1980s, but have stayed connected to their Hyderabad roots, making it a point to visit the city whenever they visit India.

Said Usha Banerjee: “Our last visit to Hyderabad was in 2015. We have a lot of our relatives in Hyderabad.” She also disclosed that the new Wimbledon junior champion likes Andhra and Hyderabadi food. She also revealed that she speaks to Samir in Telugu at home. “Yes, I converse with him in Telugu so that he keeps in touch with the language. My mother also lives in the U.S. and whenever she visits, they speak a bit of Telugu with each other,” she said.

Samir’s parents are naturally over the moon with their son’s spectacular and rather unexpected victory at London. The Wimbledon junior event was only Samir’s second ever Junior Grand Slam appearance. And the first, at this year’s French Open at the Roland Garros, had ended in an opening-round loss. The Banerjees expected the unseeded Samir to make it past a round or two, but the youngster, who uses his gangling frame and quick hands to advantage, grew in strength round after round, serving and volleying his way to a great win. In the 88-minute final against Victor Lilov, he won 17 of his 19 approach shots.

Samir is scheduled to join Columbia University next year, but this victory on the hallowed lawns of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in South West London could change all that. He will have to decide whether he wants to play on the professional tennis tour or stay on in the U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tennis circuit.

For the record, four Indian players have won Junior Grand Slam titles: Yuki Bhambri (Australian Open, 2009), Leander Paes (Wimbledon, 1990 and U.S. Open 1991), Ramesh Krishnan (French Open and Wimbledon, 1979) and Ramanathan Krishnan (Wimbledon, 1954).

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