By Sadef Ali Kully
Thousands of young tennis fans from the tri-state area gathered Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day tennis event before opening day for the US Open.
For more than 20 years, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day has used the tennis arena in Flushing Meadows to offer free tennis lessons to children and provide volley time with professional players.
The event is a celebration of the memory of legendary tennis player Arthur Ashe, who died of AIDS in 1993, and of his efforts to help young people through tennis.
Last year the US Open attracted over 700,000 attendees for the seventh time, with the final tally of 713,642 ranking as the fourth-highest in US Open history.
“It’s an historic occasion for Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, as we mark two decades of bringing the best in tennis and music together on a truly special day for families,” said Gordon Smith, USTA executive director and chief operating officer.
The event offered a wide range of activities for children of all ages to test their skills, practice with top tennis pros, win prizes and enjoy music in addition to face painting, a juggling workshop, hair beading and braiding, storytelling and balloon artists.
For Gracie Tavares from East Elmhurst, it was passing on a tradition to her two children.
“I came here as a child and now my kids will start,” said Tavares, who had her 5-year-old son Aidan and 7-year-old daughter Syann with her on the face painting line. “This is their first time here and I get to share their experience.”
Tavares lives near the stadium and walked over with her two children.
“As a kid for me, it was something different and awesome to experience,” she said.
Tennis greats who have appeared annually at Arthur Ashe Kids Day include the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena; Roger Federer; Rafael Nadal; Andre Agassi; Andy Roddick; Novak Djokovic; Kim Clijsters; and Anna Kournikova, who play to entertain the children and families and to raise money for charity.
This year USTA concert featured a star-studded lineup for the milestone 20th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day concert featured live performances from Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of Artists You Need to Know Bea Miller, “hip-pop” duo Kalin and Myles; Flo Rida protégé Natalie La Rose; MTV’s Artist to Watch Jacob Whitesides, chart-topping pop-rock act American Authors and DJ Alex Angelo.
USTA Foundation uses proceeds from Arthur Ashe Day to help fund the National Junior Tennis & Learning Network, a nationwide group of more than 500 nonprofit youth-development organizations that provide free or low-cost tennis, education and life-skills programming to more than 225,000 children each year.
The 2015 US Open will run through Sept 13. at the tennis stadium in Flushing Meadows Park.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull