Vijay Amritraj was born on 14th December 1953 to Mr. Robert Amritraj and Mrs. Maggie Dhairyam, a Christian family, in Chennai. His father was a railroad official. Vijay grew up on a small estate in Southern Chennai. He was first interested in badminton but when he noticed how much his brother Anand was enjoying lawn tennis, he took over and both the brothers played as a team. The third brother, Ashok, also joined in. These three were the first Indians to earn a living from professional tennis and became world class tennis players.
Vijay Amritraj played his first Grand Prix event in 1970 at the age of sixteen and achieved his first significant success in international singles in 1973 when he reached the quarter finals of Wimbledon. He lost to Jan Kodes in that quarter final match. He also featured in a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open the same year where he lost to Ken Rosewall. He managed to reach the quarter finals of the U.S. Open again in 1974 and it was Ken Rosewall one more time that defeated him. He was able to reach the quarter finals at Wimbledon again in 1981 when Jimmy Connors beat him.
Vijay Amritraj has compiled a career singles win-loss record of 384-296, winning sixteen singles titles and thirteen doubles titles. He has been one of the most famous lawn tennis players in the world. He also became a tennis icon for India. He played for almost two decades between 1970 and 1990 and was the top tennis player in Asia for almost fourteen years. Pancho Gonzalez was his coach.
Vijay Amritraj was part of the Indian Davis Cup Team that reached the finals in 1974. He played as a team with his brother, Anand Amritraj. He came back after thirteen years in 1987 to play for India in the Davis Cup when the team reached the finals again but lost to Sweden.
During his peak period, he beat the big names in tennis like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe, Bjorn Borg and Yannick Noah. They all fell prey at least once to his aggressive serve and volley game. He reached a career high of world number sixteen.
In the recent years, Vijay Amritraj has become a leading tennis commentator for Fox Sports in the United States and Star TV in Asia. He has started a Company called `First Serve Entertainment’ that is managed by his brother Ashok Amritraj and himself. It is based in California, United States and is one of the prominent multimedia production companies that deals with American Asian content. He has been helpful in Disney, Turner and ESPN entering the Indian market.
Vijay Amritraj has been named the Eighth Messenger of Peace by the United Nations. In 2006, after completing his assignment, he established the `Vijay Amritraj Foundation’ to bring hope and healing to the innocent and defenceless victims of disease and circumstances in India.
Vijay Amritraj had a brief acting career and has appeared in films like `the Players’ in 1979 and `Octopussy’ (the James Bond Film) in 1983. He has also worked for NBC’s television drama, `The Last Precinct’.
Vijay Amritraj lives in California with his wife, Shyamala, a Sri Lankan Tamilian and his two sons, Prakash Amritraj and Vikram Amritraj. Prakash Amritraj is also a professional tennis player. In 2003, Prakash won the National Championships at the University of Southern California.
Vijay Amritraj has put India on the map of international tennis in the Open Era. His personality even impressed Farrah-Fawcett Majors, one of America’s supermodels and actresses. He also held the position of the President of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for several years.