Thursday 23 Mar 2023

At 81, Raiturkar serves as oldest player at Gaspar Dias Open

At 81, Raiturkar serves as oldest player at Gaspar Dias Open

Avinash Raiturkar started playing tennis in 1961.

Photo Credits: The Goan

At the ripe old age of 81 years, Avinash Raiturkar could have stretched his feet on a lounge chair and looked back fondly at his eventful life.

Instead, Raiturkar has chosen to slip on his sports shoes once again and walk onto the tennis court to participate in the ongoing Gadre Gaspar Dias Open 2023 state-level tennis tournament, where he slots himself as the oldest player in the tournament.

This factoid should help put Raiturkar’s age, experience and then his enthusiasm into context. In 1961, when the Indian armed forces marched into Goa to liberate the State from Portuguese rule, the veteran played his first tennis match. “Perhaps, I am not only the oldest but the longest playing tennis player in Goa, having started in the year 1961,” says Raiturkar, who currently serves as a director in the Goa State Housing Finance Federation and in Alcon Resort Holdings Ltd of the Alcon Victor Group.

His fascination with tennis started in his childhood, some memorable parts of which were spent watching Portuguese nationals playing the game in the pre-liberation era at the BPS Club in Margao, next to his ancestral house. “Of course, there was very little chance of having the luxury to play the game those days as the membership of the club was restricted to only Europeans and a few elite Goans. All the same, I was determined to play the game and got my first opportunity during my college days in Mumbai,” he recalls.

After his stint in Mumbai, Raiturkar returned to Goa to start his professional career, before dabbling in the realm of administration of his favourite sport. “The first tennis association (in Goa) was formed in early 1970s under the auspices of the BPS Club and if I remember correctly, Bonnie Chowgule was its president and Datta Hemmady was the secretary. I took over as the secretary thereafter with Hemmady serving as president,” he says.

He has also held several positions in the Goa State Tennis Association for several years, the last one in capacity as the association’s treasurer. The association organised the first All Goa tennis tournament in the year 1975, which Raiturkar won before winning several other tournaments subsequently.

While he was passionate about playing the racquet sport, one of his life’s high points was watching the US Open Tennis tournament in 2014. “For me, it was almost a pilgrimage to watch the matches being played from the grandeur of the Flushing Meadows and being present at the Grand Slam venue’s iconic Billie Jean King arena and Arthur Ashe stadium,” he says.

He was inspired by tennis greats such as Rod Laver, Chuck McKinley, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer and has seen Indian tennis stars such as Vijay and Anand Amritraj, Joy Mukherjee in action during Davis Cup matches in Delhi against Japan in 1967. “I have personally met Leander Paes on two other occasions at a private party hosted in his honour by a Goan business house. Leander was very obliging to me and my wife and we were photographed with him,” he said. 

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