Vijay Amritraj was born on 14 December 1953 in Chennai, India, is a former Indian tennis player, sports commentator and actor.
Amritraj was born to Maggie Dhairyam and Robert Amritraj. He and his brothers, Anand Amritraj and Ashok Amritraj, were among the first Indians to play in top-flight international tour tennis. They did their schooling in Don Bosco Egmore, Chennai, and later graduated from Loyola College, Chennai. In 1976, the brothers (Vijay and Anand) were semifinalists in the Wimbledon men’s doubles. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1983.
After playing his first grand prix event in 1970, Amritraj achieved his first significant success in singles in 1973 when he reached the quarter-final stage at two Grand Slam events. At Wimbledon he lost 7–5 in the fifth set to the eventual champion Jan Kodeš and later that summer at the US Open, lost to Ken Rosewall after having beaten Rod Laver two rounds earlier.
Amritraj repeated his feat at Forest Hills in 1974 when he went out in the last eight again to Rosewall after beating a young Björn Borg in the second round. In the years that followed he reached the latter stages of numerous Grand Prix events but failed to meet with success in Grand Slam tournaments. It was not until 1981 when Amritraj again reached the quarterfinals, going out in five sets to Jimmy Connors. This match typified Amritraj’s tennis. He was a natural grass-court player who liked to chip-and-charge and serve-and-volley. He could compete against the world’s best but often would lose longer matches through a lack of stamina. Against Connors he was up two sets but lost the last two convincingly in a 2–6, 5–7, 6–4, 6–3, 6–2 loss. A similar Wimbledon result occurred in 1979 in the 2nd round where he looked set to defeat defending champion Borg, up two sets to one and 4–1 in the fourth set, only to lose 2–6, 6–4, 4–6, 7–6, 6–2.
Amritraj was the captain of the Indian Davis Cup for much of the late 1970s and 1980s, helping India reach the finals in 1974 and 1987. It was here that he revelled as a champion and chalked memorable wins against higher ranked players. A do-or-die five set epic over Martín Jaite of Argentina was the highlight of India’s run to the final in 1987.
Amritraj still plays occasionally and has entered the finals of the 2008 Wimbledon Sr. Invitation Gentlemen’s Doubles, partnering Gene Mayer. They were seeded number 1.
Vijay also had a brief acting career, perhaps his most notable appearance being as Vijay in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy as an ally to Bond (played by Roger Moore) during his mission in India.
He also appeared in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as a starship captain.
He was also a regular character in the NBC TV Series The Last Precinct, and the Yakov Smirnoff comedy What a Country, as well as a guest star on various television shows such as Hart to Hart. He has since gone on to become a sports commentator, has been a judge at the Miss Universe pageant, and has developed a successful multimedia business.
In 2006, after completing his assignment as a “United Nations Messenger of Peace”, Vijay Amritraj founded “The Vijay Amritraj Foundation”. The foundation’s mission is to bring hope, help and healing to the defenseless and innocent victims of disease, tragedy and circumstance in India. Driven by a firm belief that “in giving we receive”, the foundation pledges to make a real difference for those who are most in need of the helping hand of humanity.
After an extraordinarily successful debut in 2006, the Foundation raised enough funds to immediately begin supporting various Charitable Organizations in India. Over the next decade, the Foundation aims to have a meaningful presence in all the states of the Indian Union, and to make a positive difference in the lives of the less fortunate citizens of these states. Today, many noteworthy persons are associated with the Foundation, including World Leaders, Statesmen, Business Leaders, and Philanthropists; among them, George H. W. Bush -Former President of the United States, Reddy S. Jay Reddy – Chairman & CEO of The CORBISCO Group, Sashi Tharoor – Former Under Secretary General of the United Nations, and General the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank – Chief of the Defence Staff of the United Kingdom during the Blair Administration. The Foundation conducts a highly successful Golf Tournament every year, followed by a gala dinner event in Beverly Hills, California.
Amritraj lives in California with wife Shyamala, who is Sri Lankan Tamil, and sons Prakash Amritraj and Vikram. He is a Christian.