Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Man who was denied chance to play as youth still teaching tennis at 93

APOLLO BEACH — He loved the game, but he couldn't play it.

Dipnarine Maharaj worked as a ball boy on tennis courts in a British subdivision during his childhood in Trinidad. Racism blocked his desire to play on the courts, but not his passion for the game.

"We were not allowed to play there because it was all white. No nonwhites,'' Maharaj said, matter-of-factly.

So he and friends developed their skills by playing in the street, using boards as rackets and pretending that a net divided the "court.''

When he grew up and made enough money, he built his own courts himself and taught his seven children to play. He taught them well. Their tennis prowess earned six of the children college scholarships. Two sons and a daughter are ranked by the U.S. Professional Tennis Association.

Maharaj is 93 years old now and still teaches several times a week. He's been an instructor at Apollo Beach Recreation Center since the mid 1980s.

A jovial man with an easy laugh, a devout Hindu of Indian descent, he radiates happiness. "Dip,'' as everyone calls him, no longer darts about the court. He stands in one spot and hits balls, making his students dart about the court.

"His placement is dead on,'' said Trish Pendry, 55, a nurse who wants to develop skills enough to play the game with her husband, David. She was chasing shots delivered by Maharaj on a recent day. As she did, the pro called out instructions in a cheerful tone.

"Left foot, left side. Circle back that racket. Left foot, left side. Again, Trish. Move in, Trish. All right,'' he calls.

"He's very patient and quite obviously knows what he's doing,'' Pendry said.

Maharaj himself was in his 30s when he was first able to play on real tennis courts — the ones he built himself.

It took years of work to reach that goal. He first got a job as a mechanic in the motor pool when the United States built an Air Force base there during World War II.

He saved his money and, when the base closed after the war, started his own repair shop, then bought a tow truck business, then taxicabs, then a BP gas station.

By the mid 1950s, he was able to buy some property. He built a tennis court even before the house went up. He cleared and leveled the ground, spread the sand and then put down the asphalt. He put up lights so the family could play at night after he got home from work. A year later, he built a clay court so his children could practice for tournaments on both.

In the 1970s, he and his wife, Banmati, started spending six months each year in the U.S. to visit their children. They became full-time residents when they got their U.S. citizenship in the early 1980s. They returned to Trinidad on visits, but Maharaj has not been back since his wife died in 2008.

"Too many memories,'' he said.

Maharaj says he doesn't know how long he will continue teaching. "My time is getting very near the end,'' he said.

The end of work? No, "generally,'' he said, and laughed.

He theorizes that teaching may be what keeps him going. He said he finds such gratification in seeing his students improve. And the fact that he spent a lifetime of cardio workouts on tennis courts may be another reason he keeps on going.

"If you look back into history, you will see, racket sports give you a longer life.''

Contact Philip Morgan at pmorgan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3435.

Man who was denied chance to play as youth still teaching tennis at 93 03/08/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 8, 2017 6:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Senator: American student arrested in China has been freed

    World

    BILLINGS, Mont. — Chinese authorities have dropped charges against an American college student who was arrested and detained in the a week ago after reportedly injuring a taxi driver who was roughing up his mother in a fare dispute, a U.S. lawmaker said Sunday.

    Guthrie McLean was detained for reportedly injuring a taxi driver after the driver physically attacked McLean’s mother.
  2. Tampa-based makeup artist disqualified from contest over pro-Trump post

    News

    WICHITA, Kan. — A makeup artist who splits her time between Tampa and Kansas says she won a national contest sponsored by Kat Von D Beauty but was later disqualified because of an Instagram post supporting Donald Trump's presidential candidacy.

    Gypsy Freeman won the contest with this image posted to Instagram. [@facesofgypsy on Instagram]
  3. Flesh-eating bacteria nearly kills Florida man who thought he just had blisters from a hike

    Health

    Wayne Atkins thought little of the blisters he had gotten while hiking. He was trekking up and down the 4,500-foot-high Mount Garfield in New Hampshire - a 10-mile round trip - and blisters were no surprise.

    Wayne Atkins thought his blisters were from hiking, but the flesh eating bacteria nearly killed him. [YouTube]
  4. Yes, again: Rays blow late two-run lead, get swept by Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As weekends go, this was a bad one for the Rays. In a word: brutal.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, foreground, reacts after giving up a home run to Texas Rangers' Carlos Gomez during the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 23, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) FLMC116
  5. White House offers muddled message on Russia sanctions legislation

    National

    WASHINGTON - White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday that the Trump administration supports new legislation to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression toward Ukraine.

    President Donald Trump at the commissioning ceremony for the USS Gerald R. Ford  at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, July 22, 2017. [New York Times]