By Marc Raimondi
Segundo Paredes brought his 2-year-old daughter Lucia to Arthur Ashe Kids' Day for one reason: for her to be in a tennis environment with hopes that she'll start enjoying the game.
“That's the idea,” said Paredes, a Flushing resident who attends the US Open every year. “I want to get her to appreciate the game at an early age.
But Segundo and Lucia got a special treat at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center on Saturday afternoon. They ran into Luis Horna, Peru's most famous tennis player. The Paredes family is from the South American country, where Horna is a national hero. Segundo got an autograph with Horna and Lucia took a picture with the pro.
“We're so excited,” Paredes said. “So, the ticket is paid for already.”
Those are the kind of stories that are abound at Kids' Day, where children are able to take part in clinics, get autographs from their favorite tennis players and settle in for a concert at night with the hottest young recording artists.
Samuel Smalls, 3, had one thing on his mind when he arrived at Flushing Meadows.
“He asked me, 'Mommy, where's Rafa?'” said Evelyn Justiniano, who lives in Woodside.
Smalls, a budding tennis player already, was in search of men's No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Justiniano, who attended the event with her friend Jennifer Gribbin and her son Michael, 5, says she comes every year to Kids' Day and the Open. But she's at the National Tennis Center quite often. Her son, Cardozo alum Jayquan Gooding, plays tennis at Hunter College, which calls the largest tennis structure in the United States its home court.
“This is where I hang out,” Justiniano said with a smile.
Kids' Day was a chance to share it with everyone.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.