Daniel "Dan" Maskell (11 April 1908 – 10 December 1992) was an English tennis professional who later became even better known as a radio and television commentator on the game. He was recognised as the BBC's "voice of tennis", and the "voice of Wimbledon".
Maskell was born in Fulham, London, England. His father was an engineer, and Dan was the seventh of his eight children.
His family could not afford to take up a place at Upper Latymer School, a grammar school in Hammersmith, so he was educated at Everington Street School instead. He captained the school football team, and was a ballboy at Queen's Club during school the holidays. Maskell soon decided to concentrate on tennis, and left school in 1923 to become a full-time ballboy at Queen's Club.
Maskell became a junior teaching professional at Queen's in 1924, aged 16, and was given a five-year contract in 1926, teaching real tennis, rackets, and squash in addition to lawn tennis. The main tennis championships were then open only to amateurs. Maskell arranged the first World Professional Championships, played at Queen's Club in October 1927, which he won by defeating Charles Read. Maskell became British professional champion in 1928, and won the title another 15 times until 1951.
He was coach of the winning British Davis Cup team of 1933.
He served in the Royal Air Force in the Second World War. He became rehabilitation officer in 1940, assisting wounded aircrew to recover their fitness in Torquay and then Loughborough. He was promoted to the rank of squadron leader, and appointed OBE in 1945 for his wartime service.
After he was demobilised, he returned to the All England Club, and continued as a tennis professional. He coached members of the British Royal Family, including Princess Alexandra, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew. He was chairman of the Professional Tennis Coaches Association, and became the first professional to be admitted as an honorary member of the All England Club in 1953. He retired as a tennis professional in 1955, but was then employed by the Lawn Tennis Association as its training manager until 1973. He was appointed CBE in 1982 for services to tennis.
Maskell began commentating on the Wimbledon Championships in 1949 as an expert summariser for BBC Radio alongside Max Robertson, before switching to television in 1951 with Freddie Grisewood. He would remain as the "voice of tennis" on the BBC until his retirement in 1991. When commenting on a particularly exciting piece of play or an outstanding shot, he sometimes used his most remembered and revered catchphrase "Oh, I say!".
He was also the BBC commentator when tennis resumed as an Olympic sport in Seoul in 1988.
The last match he commentated on before retiring was the 1991 Wimbledon Men's Singles final between Michael Stich and Boris Becker (which Stich won). On his retirement as a commentator, he was presented with a silver salver by the Duke of Kent. He claimed to have attended every day of play at Wimbledon from 1929 onwards, and he had first attended Wimbledon in 1924 when he saw the women's singles final.
Maskell married his first wife, Constance Cox, in 1936. They had a daughter, Robin, and a son, Jay. Outside tennis, he enjoyed skiing and golf. His son, an accountant who qualified as a private pilot, was killed when his small aircraft crashed in the Bahamas in 1970. His wife drowned while swimming at Antigua in 1979. Maskell married his second wife, Kathleen Latto, in 1980. He published an autobiography, From Where I Sit, in 1988.
He suffered from prostate cancer in later life. On 10 December 1992, he died in his sleep, of heart failure, at East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, survived by his second wife and daughter.
The Dan Maskell Tennis Trust was founded in 1997 as a restricted fund of The Tennis Foundation, and became an independent charity in 2010. Its aims are to raise money to help disabled people to play tennis in three main areas: wheelchair tennis, deaf tennis and tennis for people with learning disabilities.
- Jonathan Martin, ‘Maskell, Daniel (1908–1992)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 accessed 24 June 2013
- Obituary, The Independent
- Obituary, The Telegraph
- Anyone for Tennis Loughborough University Archives