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Indian badminton great Nandu Natekar dies aged 88

Nandu Natekar was a 17-time national champion. Gaurav Natekar

Legendary badminton player Nandu Natekar, the first Indian to win an international title in 1956, died in Pune on Wednesday. The 88-year-old, who won over 100 national and international titles in his career, was suffering from age-related ailments.

He is survived by his son Gaurav, a former tennis player and Davis Cupper, and two daughters.

"He passed away peacefully at home and we were all with him and he has been ailing for the last three months and he passed away peacefully," Gaurav told PTI.

Natekar, who was considered one of most popular sportspersons of his time, was also a former World no.3 three.

Natekar was a 17-time national champion, winning the singles and doubles titles on six occasions each and the mixed doubles title on five occasions. He won the singles title in 1953, 1954, 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1965. His doubles titles came in 1955, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1963. He won the mixed doubles championships in 1953, 1954, 1961, 1966 and 1970.

Overall, he won two titles at the nationals in four different years - singles and doubles in 1958, 1960 and 1961 - and singles and mixed doubles in 1953. He also had the unique distinction winning all three titles in 1961. He was the only Indian man to achieve this unique feat at the nationals.

Natekar's 17 titles at the nationals are easily the most for an Indian man, four more than Prakash Padukone. His six singles titles are only exceeded by Padukone (nine titles) and Syed Modi (eight titles).

Born in Sangli in western Maharashtra, Natekar won over 100 national and international titles in a career spanning over 15 years. He was also conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1961.

"With deepest sorrow, we would like to inform you that our beloved father Nandu Natekar passed away on 28th July, 2021," the Natekar family said in a message.

"Keeping in mind the COVID-19 guidelines, we will not be having a condolence meeting. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers." In his distinguished career, Natekar made it to the quarterfinals of the prestigious All England Championships in 1954 and became the first Indian player to win an international event when he claimed the Sellanger International in Malaysia in 1956.

He was also won 12 of the 16 singles and 8 of the 16 doubles matches he played as part of the Indian team at the Thomas Cup between 1951 and 1963. He also had the distinction of leading the country in the tournament in 1959, 1961 and 1963.

He also represented India at the 1965 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.