FAMILY, friends and members of the Tennis Patrons Academy threw a surprise birthday party for the stalwart Jean Merry recently at the Trinidad Country Club, Maraval.
The 70-year-old is arguably the most influential person in the sport of tennis in Trinidad and Tobago over the last three decades.
Merry is a former top player and coach who has gone on to become arguably the most successful tennis administrator ever in this country.
The 1972 Tranquillity Open champion began running competitions in the late 1980s with the Bermudez Junior Tournament at “Tranquil” Club, Victoria Avenue, Port of Spain.
In those days there were few events for junior players and Merry rented the courts at PSA (Public Service Association) Grounds, Maraval, and formed “Patrons” in the mid-1990s with the intention of adding tournaments to the calendar.
Not only did she succeed, Merry was able to put T&T on the international map around this time when she and Christine Alcazar won the battle to host an ITF (International Tennis Federation) Junior Tournament annually.
They passed on the baton to the Tennis Association of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) about a decade ago, and the only time that the Trinidad ITF Junior Tournament was not staged since it began was last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
After all these years, “Patrons”, now based at Trinidad Country Club right down the road from the old PSA, is still going strong with over 100 students.
Head coach Neil Lingo has been there for well over a decade and his assistant Kevin Clarke, who is also their tournament director, and Ellen Kuei Tung have been around much longer.
There were just two national junior tournaments in the country last year because of the pandemic and both the Lease Operators Limited Junior Tournament and the RBC Junior Tournament were both hosted by “Patrons.”
“RBC” has taken place the week before Christmas for over two decades.
“Patrons” usually host at least three of the five junior competitions on the Trinidad calendar and Sagicor and Subway are also among their sponsors.
Merry has not lost a step in the last decade and it would not be a surprise if she is still at the helm of the country’s leading tennis academy and blowing out a cake on the court during her 80th birthday celebrations.