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A chance for players to serve tragedy victims

Renaissance Vinoy Resort tennis director Hans Gallauer and head pro Gewan Maharaj are offering an opportunity to serve others through tennis.

Their "Strokes for Freedom" 12-hour marathon of clinics Saturday will help players improve their game, and each individual's $50 donation will go to the New York City Police Foundation. It's a fund for officers who were injured in the Sept. 11 attacks and for family members of those who were killed.

"It was something Gewan and I bounced off of each other," Gallauer said. "It's obvious we'll never forget what happened on 9-11, and we're all looking for some way to help.

"This can be a fun way to get together, hopefully improve tennis skills a little and help out someone with a donation," he said.

Beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing through 8 p.m., Gallauer and Maharaj are scheduling non-stop one-hour clinics for individuals or groups.

This isn't the first time Gallauer and Maharaj have teamed in tennis.

In the early 1980s, after Gallauer graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Maharaj traveled from Trinidad to complete school at Miami-Dade Commuity College and Pan American University in Texas, the two met up while working for All-American Sports in Puerto Rico. The organization, started by Nick Bollettieri, provided junior and adult clinics around the country.

At the time, Maharaj was the resident touring pro at the facility in Puerto Rico and was playing the professional circuit.

"All my life I wanted to be a professional tennis player," Maharaj said.

"I have four brothers that are now teaching pros, and one of my two sisters is a top-ranked player. My dad, Dipnarine, really got us all started after he saw the Americans playing on their base stationed in Trinidad."

Maharaj played as a pro for about seven years, facing stars such as Jimmy Connors and Ile Nastase en route to reaching a top-150 world ranking.

Unfortunately for Gallauer, a rotator cuff injury in his final semester in college ended his hopes of playing professionally.

Fortunately for the area, however, Gallauer and Maharaj are together again.

GUMBO CLASSIC: Frenchy's ninth annual Gumbo Classic made $17,000 for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County in its three-day doubles competition.

Five skill-level divisions in the men's doubles, four in the women's and five in mixed were played at Clearwater's McMullen Tennis Complex last weekend.

Patricia Grohman andSusanne Reynolds, last year's 3.0 runner-up team, played past Melissa Hayslett and Melody Raetz to finish first with a two-set win.

Others scoring straight-set victories were Ruby Johnson and Gina Roberts (3.5) and Donna Roberts and Thereasa Lawrence (4.0). Joan Simmons and Anh Thu Burks took the 4.5 title in two tie-break sets.

Straight-set winners among the men were John Ramdeen and Mike Ivey (3.0), Drew Giovanis and Curtis Hook (3.5), Eric Watson and Franz Henikl (4.0), Scott Chambers and David Heeder (4.5) and Sabir Mukerjee and Ilie Bou Kheir (5.0).

In mixed doubles, Maureen Sternberg and Mike Lyman rallied from a second-set loss to capture the 3.5 crown with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 victory.

Paula Castoro and Brian Cooper won 4.5, Jennifer Dent and Kevin Manning (5.0), Charlotte Tao and Art Griffith (3.0) and Diane Ostrander and Dean Bryan (4.0).

LEAGUE STANDINGS: The Vinoy I and II teams are tied for first in the Suncoast Singles South B Division with 11 points.

They're followed by St. Petersburg Tennis Center (9) and St. Petersburg Country Club (6).

In the Suncoast's North B Division, Bardmoor is first with 18 points, followed by East Lake Woodlands I (11), Countryside (3) and East Lake II (1).

Among the Suncoast A teams, Safety Harbor Spa II leads with seven points, Spa I is second with four and Royal Racquet Club is third with one.

NET NOTES: The winning team in the first annual B and G Celebrity Tennis Tournament at Feather Sound was Kathy Murray, Phyllis Fellows, Andre Etman, Gloria Hollingsworth, Luis Melendez and Pat Siracusa. In all, 24 players competed in the fund-raising competition for the Abilities Foundation. Safety Harbor Spa is having an off-court challenge for league teams Dec. 15 when the first annual "Create your own Gingerbread House" fundraiser is held. Proceeds will go to the American Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter. For information, call 446-2358.

TENNIS CHALLENGE: The third annual Rotary Tennis Challenge is Saturday at Treasure Island Golf, Tennis and Recreation Center.

The round-robin tournament has a 48-player limit. The proceeds will go to children and junior programs at the center and to the Gulf Beaches Rotary Foundation.

Match play is scheduled for 9 a.m.-noon. The fee is $30 per player. For information, call the center, 360-6062.