Haroon Rahim was the son of a Pakistani civil servant, who loved tennis so much that he wanted his offsprings to make name in the sport, and himself to die on a tennis court. BY the time, Mir Abdul Rahim, Chief Engineer, Pakistan Western Railways, passed away in 1968 while playing doubles with his friends at Mayo Gardens, Lahore, the precocious son had already played his first Davis Cup tie at the age of 15. Haroon became the National Champion at 15, a record that stands till date. He also reached quarter-finals at Junior Wimbledon twice- 1965 and 1967. But Mir Saheb and HR were not the only tennis players in the family- his elder brother Naeem Rahim had also been a National Champion, and played semi-final at Junior Wimbledon in 1956 (lost to Rod Laver). Two other brothers- Nasim and Zulficar- and one sister, Shahnaz- also became National Tennis Champions. (Incredible as it may seem, five of Mir Abul Rahim’s kids became National Champs)
Haroon reached the third round at the US Open Men’s Singles in 1971, where he lost to J.Alexander. In 1971, he also led the UCLA tennis team, comprising of Jimmy Connors and Jeff Borowiak, to NCAA victory. Haroon Rahim also defeated the young and upcoming American star, Jimbo, in 1970. The Pakistani reached second rounds at French Open in 1975, and at the Wimbledon in 1976 and 1977. Between 1973 and 1977, Haroon figured mostly among the top 100 players in ATP rankings, with his highest being No.34 in 1977. He was the top-ranked Pakistani and Asian player on the Tour for some time. Rahim won two ATP singles titles, to go with three titles in doubles.
Partnering with his dear friend, Jeff Borowiak, Haroon Rahim also reached the US Open Doubles quarter-final in 1971 (what a great year 1971 turned out to be). The duo also played the third round at the Wimbledon championships in 1976. Haroon partnered with Graebner to reach the second round at French Open in 1972. Between 1964 and 1977, Haroon’s was a constant presence in the circuit, even as he made his late father and his country proud.
In 1978, he got married to an American girl. Heavens fell over him after that. His aristocratic family did not approve of his choice. Something permanently snapped in Haroon. He changed his name and identity, cut off ties with his family, quit tennis at 29 and just disappeared into thin air. Nothing has been heard from him ever since.
What was the need to take such drastic steps? Why did he quit tennis when he could have carried on for few more years, and given back to the sport after his playing years? Breaking ties with the family is one thing, but giving up on your beloved country quite another. There were rumours that he had joined some cult in California (Are there hints about Osho Rajneesh?). Is he still out there?
But the reports about family’s displeasure seems like lazy media insinuations. As per family sources, he did travel to Pakistan with his wife, and was welcomed whole-heartedly. Around that time, Haroon was also carrying an ankle injury, and perhaps an ankle surgery had gone wrong. Haroon’s twin brother, Farooq, a squash player, had died under mysterious circumstances in the US in 1970. This shocking incident caused Haroon a lot of stress. It was in late 70s that he supposedly became influenced with the Osho cult. It is averred that he joined Rajneesh, and even traveled to India with him, when the former was deported back. They figure that he went to India in 1990-91, and thereafter his whereabouts are unknown.
However big might be the tennis achievements of Haroon Rahim, I feel it is his success in ‘remaining lost’ for forty plus years that is truly mindboggling. If he is still alive, that is. The urge to come out of anonymity, and create some buzz in this age of social media must have been strong. The story of Haroon Rahim surely screams for closure. He must be a truly detached soul to have just given up on the ‘name’ under which he achieved huge success. There is a single 2 minute hazy video, some old pictures and hardly any articles on the internet related to Haroon Rahim. All I could gather from a clip of his match against Nastase was that he was right-handed, served strongly, had great court coverage and did not mind going for volleys and overheads, if he could. This great man has truly exercised his ‘right to be forgotten’. Maybe he is present on some social media tennis groups under his new name, shall even read this piece and feel amused at all these speculations !
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