By Juan Soto
Corona, meet the next Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
All at once.
Just weeks before the US Open International Tennis Tournament kicks off Aug. 25, Queens kids received free lessons Friday from top-notch tennis instructors at Corona Plaza, in the vicinity of 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
More than 20 youngsters 10 and under played tennis at the two mini-courts set up on the asphalt by the United States Tennis Association. The courts are 36 feet in length and 18 feet wide.
All the kids borrowed racquets and foam balls to participate in the initiative, which included a lesson on basic tennis skills, terminology and information on long-term athletic development.
“This is wonderful, it makes people aware of tennis,” said Marty Weinstein, a member of the community outreach program of the USTA. “We have a lot of events happening throughout the year.”
The so-called “Fridays under the Seven” will continue this Friday between 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m.
Weinstein, who has been playing tennis for the past 40 years, said many city residents “don’t know the facilities where the US Open is played are open to the public.”
He added that the USTA organizes summer camps and other activities at the internationally known tennis courts.
At the tennis exhibition event in Corona Plaza, the USTA also set up a tent to provide information on low-cost activities and programs available all year at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
All the youth who inaugurated the Tennis under the Seven program enjoyed the lessons. Most of them grabbed a tennis racquet for the first time in their lives. They loved the experience and some seemed to be naturals.
There was a second session from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.
To top it all, they got to see the genuine US Open trophies. One of them held the men’s title cup. It had Rafael Nadal’s name engraved last as the 2013 champion.
“Not even Rafael Nadal saw his name in the trophy yet,” USTA workers said.
Along with the sport, there were Zumba lessons, children’s games and free dance instruction at the hands of nearby EC Squared’s studio teachers.
The event, organized by the Queens Economic Development Corp., also included a farmer’s market, where the kids participated in several healthy workshops.
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and Community Board 4 members dropped by the free tennis lessons activity and spent time playing with the kids.
And for this Friday, the program includes more healthy eating demonstrations, a merchant’s showcase and back-to-school discounts.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.