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USTA ANNOUNCES NEXT PHASE OF SUPPORT FOR TENNIS INDUSTRY

Thursday, April 16, 2020



National Governing Body Will Provide Comprehensive Program of

Financial, Educational and Other Resources to Help Tennis Industry Weather the COVID-19 Pandemic


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 16, 2020 – The USTA today announced a comprehensive suite of programs to support the tennis industry, which is battling the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement is the second phase of ongoing efforts that the USTA is developing in concert with the American tennis industry. The overarching goal of these efforts is to provide immediate relief, spur the industry’s recovery, and help the industry rebuild when the crisis passes.

On March 23, the USTA announced the creation of Tennis Industry United, a collaboration of the USTA, TIA, USPTA, PTR, ITA, major endemic media partners and others, that is assessing overall industry needs and making recommendations for those industry sectors that need immediate relief. The initial goal of the first phase was to provide help for the front lines of the sport including tennis facilities, tennis professionals, grassroots tennis programs and the hundreds of tournaments, college and high school matches, and league matches cancelled or suspended since the onset of the pandemic. On March 26, through the collaborative efforts of the Tennis Industry United partnership group, the USTA published the industry resource guide at http://www.tennisindustryunited.com. This resource guide is continually updated to provide the most current information regarding governmental assistance and other resources available to those in the industry.

“We recognized helping tennis facilities, community tennis programs, and teaching professionals navigate the multitude of government grants and loans was of immediate importance,” said Mike Dowse, CEO and Executive Director of the USTA. “The foundation of our sport begins with these stakeholders and we need to ensure they can weather the storm and remain viable as the storm recedes. This is all about ‘relief, recovery and rebuild’ for our industry.”

For the second phase of support, the USTA, along with its partners, will begin offering specific economic assistance packages, increased support to navigate government assistance for facilities and coaches, access to industry leaders, daily educational webinars and in-the-moment phone support to help individuals emotionally impacted from COVID-19. The extent of this future support will be determined by the financial performance of the 2020 US Open and the impact that the current pandemic has on the event. The USTA’s plans to stage the tournament remain ongoing, and all decisions regarding the US Open will be guided by federal and local governmental agencies and the health and safety of the players, fans, partners, and the broader tennis community.

Nevertheless, the USTA is taking immediate actions to cut costs for the eventual deployment of financial resources to support the tennis industry in the U.S. Immediate first steps include identifying more than $20 million in savings by instituting salary reductions of USTA management, eliminating programs in marketing, Player Development and operations, and deferring all non-essential capital projects.

The following outlines a summary of the support and assistance currently provided or now in development to assist the U.S. tennis industry:

  • USTA Facility Grants: USTA facility grants are being developed to support facilities in need of financial support to reopen. This funding, expected to reach more than $5 million in total, will come from both USTA National and the USTA Sectional offices. Funding criteria, award levels, and the application process are being finalized and will be available on or before May 1.
  • Certified Tennis Professional Membership Grants: The USTA is working with the USPTA and PTR to ensure that certified tennis professionals are able to renew their annual membership dues moving into 2021. This will allow these critical tennis providers to maintain their liability insurance, be Safe Play compliant, and continue to have access to educational opportunities. The organizations will be collaborating on this plan over the coming weeks. Grants are expected to exceed $2.5 million.
  • The USTA Foundation will provide $5 million in operating grants to grassroots tennis and education organizations supporting underserved communities through the National Junior Tennis and Learning network.
  • Access to legal expertise with links to identify and claim government support through the CARES Act at http://www.tennisindustryunited.com.
  • The hosting of all tennis offerings from key organizations within the tennis industry on one central site to enable ease of access of key offerings available at http://www.tennisindustryunited.com.
  • FREE access to online continuing professional development for facility owners and managers and tennis professionals at http://www.tennisindustryunited.com.
  • FREE phone support to help the tennis industry cope with the emotional impact of COVID-19 through the USTA’s health provider, Aetna. Those needing to utilize this service can call 1-833-327-AETNA and reference the USTA.
  • A dedicated email address, covidsupport@usta.com, has been created for those in the industry to submit specific queries regarding available COVID-19 support.
  • Daily updates and guidance by leading experts will be made available on http://www.tennisindustryunited.com that will give specific information about key steps to take to navigate the pandemic.
  • The USTA will provide a free website builder tool with marketing and content resources that allows turnkey solutions for communication tools for facilities and pros.
  • The USTA National office has recommitted as its top priority the continuation of the “grow the game” funding commitments of $35 million to community tennis programming in 2020 and 2021. These funds are distributed through the 17 USTA Sections to get the money closer to grassroots decision-makers and fund grassroots tennis programs at parks, schools, NJTLs, and a variety of other local efforts. Tennis providers are encouraged to connect with their local USTA offices to explore Section, District and State offerings.
The above equates to a commitment of more than $50 million in spending towards grassroots tennis and will engage the entire U.S. tennis ecosystem.

“With phase one and phase two, the priority has been to start the process of ensuring that the foundation of our sport remains in place and is viable in the future,” added Dowse. “We now quickly are taking a look at the broader tennis ecosystem and are working with our colleagues within the Grand Slams, the ITF, the ATP and the WTA Tour to determine how to provide help for lower-ranked professional tennis players who are facing tournament cancellations and financial hardship.”


In the coming weeks, the USTA and its industry partners, will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. tennis marketplace. Moving forward, the USTA will continue to aggregate all industry resources to aid in recovery while collaborating with all industry partners to develop and deliver programs to help rebuild tennis in the United States.

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Naomi Osaka, Diego Schwartzman Earn 2019 U.S. Open Sportsmanship Awards

Thursday, September 5, 2019


FLUSHING, N.Y., September 5, 2019 – World No. 1 and 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka and 2019 US Open quarterfinalist Diego Schwartzman were awarded the women’s and men’s 2019 US Open Sportsmanship Award, respectively, on Thursday. The award is presented to the professional tennis players who best demonstrate excellence in sportsmanship throughout the US Open Series and the US Open.

"Naomi and Diego are both tremendous competitors and athletes, but at this year's US Open, and throughout the entire summer, they have demonstrated a level of sportsmanship that is even more impressive than their play on the court," said Todd Martin, co-chair of the US Open Sportsmanship Award Selection Committee.  "We are incredibly pleased to present them with this year's US Open Sportsmanship Awards, and thank them for being true role models and inspirations for all those that play the game."

Eligibility requirements for winners include participating in at least two Series tournaments, as well as the 2019 US Open. Each US Open Sportsmanship Award winner receives a trophy and a $5,000 donation to the charity of his or her choice.

The USTA started a Sportsmanship Committee in 2011. Its charge is to “educate and inspire youngsters and their parents to develop and exhibit a high degree of sportsmanship and an attitude of fair play and mutual respect on and off the tennis court. Underlying the charge is the ethical imperative that fairness is more important than winning.”

The USTA Sportsmanship Award Selection Committee is comprised of USTA representatives, former players and journalists, including Co-Chairs Todd Martin and Lars Rosene, Jon Vegosen, Mary Carillo, Mary Joe Fernandez, Chanda Rubin, Joel Drucker, Steve Flink and Matt Cronin.




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A Major Event For The Preservation And Rememberance Of The Life And Contributions Of American Tennis Great Althea Gibson At 2019 U.S. Open

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Althea Gibson Monument Unveiled On Day One of 2019 U.S. Open

The historic occasion of  the Althea Gibson Statue Unveiling on Monday, September 26, 2019, the first day of the U.S. Open, raised so many different levels of thoughts and feelings.  The day was beautiful, the weather was good and the crowd was large, we were about to witness a tremendous turn around in the consistent lack of preservation and honor that Ms. Gibson has long deserved.

The greatness that Ms. Gibson brought to the Black community, the tennis world and America should have already afforded her legacy the dignity and respect that many who have done far less have already received.

This incredible Black woman was the first to break the color barrier of the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) in 1950, and played in the U. S. National Tennis Championships in Forest Hills. She became the first African-American player to play in Wimbledon in 1951. She won the French Open Championship in 1956. Ms. Gibson won the U.S. National Championships and Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958. These victories were especially historic because the winner’s trophy was presented to her by Queen Elizabeth.

Ms. Gibson also broke the color barrier in golf, launching her golf career in 1964 and joining the
Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

On the day of the Unveiling, Immediate Past United States Tennis Association (USTA) President Katrina Adams, and former tennis professionals Leslie Allen and Zina Garrison, all gave tribute to, and discussed the depth of what Ms. Gibson meant to them and the role that her mentorship played in their becoming successful players. Witnessing these Black women honor the fact that had there been no Althea Gibson, they would not be where they are today, paid well deserved, respectful and loving tribute to yet another history making and door opening Black American woman.

American tennis great Billie Jean King, Angela Buxton, Ms. Gibson's former doubles partner, and the creator of the monument, Eric Goulder, also discussed and paid wonderful tribute to Ms. Gibson. Of particular note was Mr. Goulder's detailing of his concept in creating the monument.  During an interview he talked about, "The bust portion sitting atop a box, the box representing the box that the world tried to keep her in, and her now sitting atop that box she is depicted having broken out of it." And that, "Her shoulder is especially depicted in the way that it is, because so many now stand on it."

Talking to Mr. Goulder brought so much more conceptual meaning to his work. Upon returning to the statue, I now saw it in a totally different light, and was also spiritually enlightened by it.

Ms. Buxton shared shared memories of her long-time friend. “We won both the French and Wimbledon doubles together with my arm around her both times at the closing ceremonies … She slowly became the Jackie Robinson of tennis and I was soon referred to as the Pee Wee Reese, who without saying a word indicated ‘This is my friend.’”


The sculpture also will activate an augmented reality experience. Developed by MRM/McCann, visitors will be able to activate exclusive content about Althea Gibson’s life and legacy by focusing the Augmented Reality (AR) Viewfinder found within the 2019 US Open app onto the sculpture.  Narrated by Billie Jean King, the additional AR experience traces Althea’s humble roots, her early interest and involvement in tennis, her career and her legacy through video footage, photos and graphics.  Fans can also view the AR experience anywhere by using the APP to place a full-size 3D “hologram” of the sculpture into their surroundings and re-live the experience again or for the very first time.component that brings Gibson's life and career to life for fans on site during the Open via the US Open mobile app.

This honor that the USTA has bestowed upon Ms. Gibson shines such a brighter light on the historic and current day value of the life of Althea Gibson. Later in the day, I stood and watched people of many different cultures stop and observe the monument, take photos in front of it or standing beside it, and reading her quote that is engraved on one of the surrounding granite blocks, "I hope that I have accomplished just one thing: that I have been a credit to tennis and my country.

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2019 U.S. Open Fan Week Loaded With Very Personable Personnel, These Two Help Brighten Each Day

Friday, August 23, 2019



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SAVE THE DATE!! 2019 US Open Althea Gibson Statue Unveiling Hosted By Katrina Adams

Thursday, July 11, 2019


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Black Tennis Hall Of Fame 12th Annual Induction Ceremony Headed To Brooklyn, NY For 2019 Ceremony

Monday, March 25, 2019

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GOOD WORKS!! The Sloane Stephens Foundation And The USTA Partner To Give Dominguez High School (Compton, CA) New Tennis Courts

Friday, February 8, 2019







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BLACK TENNIS HISTORY: The Black Tennis Hall Of Fame

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


Mission Statement

The Black Tennis Hall of Fame is a non-profit, privately funded organization dedicated to preserving the history of African American tennis and honoring those who made exemplary contributions to the sport, with special consideration extended to those who overcame racial barriers.


Dr. Dale G. Caldwell, Founder

The Black Tennis Hall of Fame (BTHOF) was founded by
Dr. Dale G. Caldwell. He is the Founder and CEO of Strategic Influence, LLC and the creator of the “Intelligent Influence” framework for individual and organizational success. Dr. Caldwell graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Economics; received an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and, earned an Ed.D. in Education Administration from Seton Hall University. He has served on the Board of Directors of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), and as the USTA’s liaison to the American Tennis Association (ATA). He is a visionary that is determined to help the ATA return to its former status and to generate renewed interest in tennis in urban communities across America and elsewhere.

The BTHOF honors individuals who have broken through the barriers of race and class to achieve success in the wonderful sport of tennis.
 

Robert Davis, Executive Director
Tennis has become the world’s second most popular sport largely because of the geographic, cultural, stylistic and racial diversity of its professionals. The sport has developed passionate fans of different backgrounds because of this diversity. Unfortunately, diversity was not always encouraged by the sport’s leadership. Most people are familiar with the tennis and life successes of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. However, because of racial discrimination in tennis and America, few people know the incredible story of the many talented players who were not allowed to compete in major tennis tournaments because of their race.

 For over fifty years prior to Gibson’s victories, blacks had been competing in club and regional tournaments. Banned from entering segregated events, African American tennis enthusiasts in 1916 formed their own organization, the ATA, to provide blacks with the opportunity to play competitive tennis on a national level. Their struggle to gain equal access to tennis paralleled the struggle of all blacks to gain equal access to American society.

Presiding over the BTHOF is one of its own inductees, Mr. Robert Davis. If not for Davis, much of the early history of blacks in tennis (Black Tennis History) might have been lost. He has been relentless is preserving the history and the photos of the men and women who played the sport ... and fought for that right. And maybe the BTHOF might not be where it is today if not for the nurturing by Davis, who now serves as executive director. In this capacity, he has managed the day-to-day operations of this organization dedicated to recording and promoting tennis history. However, Davis could certainly play the game. He was a two-time ATA national champion and winner of numerous other titles. But it is what he has done in the background that has made the biggest impact. In more than 40 years dealing in the business end of the sport, Davis has a long history of working with children to provide guidance and opportunity in the game of tennis. He helped create, and served as National Program Director for the Ashe/Bollettieri “Cities” Tennis Program. A driving force of the program, and what later became known as the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation, Davis was instrumental in introducing more than 20,000 inner city children to tennis.

The Black Tennis Hall of Fame (BTHOF) was founded to honor the achievements of those individuals who achieved success in tennis and life in spite of the many barriers that they faced, as well as those who helped them achieve those successes. We honor these individuals by permanently inducting them into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.


Source(s)

Black Tennis History
The Herald Tribune

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INSTAGRAM: USTA Spotlight On Fourteen-Year-Old Coco Gauff

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INSTAGRAM: Coco Gauff Kicks Off The USTA Pro Circuit Event Dow Tennis Classic With A Win

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


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2018 U.S. OPEN: Venus Williams Defeats Fellow U.S. Open Champion Svetlana Kuznetsova In Opening Round

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


American Venus Williams and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova took to the courts for round one of the 2018 U.S. Open wherein the two went toe-to-toe with Venus eventually prevailing.

In all, it was a high-quality affair from both competitors, Venus striking 48 winners to 45 unforced errors while Kuznetsova struck 40 winners to 38 unforced errors.

"I'm most pleased I won the match. I think I stayed pretty aggressive throughout the match, and that's how I want to play the tournament" Venus stated post match.

"It's wonderful when the crowd is behind you. I experienced that much later in my career than I guess is typical. But I guess it's wonderful to have people on your side. You have to do it for yourself as well, but if the crowd is with you, it's wonderful to do it for them, too."

 Up next for the seven-time Grand Slam champion is Wimbledon quarterfinalist Camila Giorgi.


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BLACK TENNIS PRO'S EXCLUSIVE! - SHELIA TO SHELIA: An In-Depth Conversation With Shelia Townsend, Mother Of World No. 1 Junior Taylor Townsend

Friday, September 14, 2012


Nobody, I don't care if it's tennis, if you are a business owner, if you are running a corporation or if you're in school... nobody is going to attain the level of No. 1 being lazy, being undisciplined, uncommitted and without sacrifice.

~~ Shelia Townsend


On Friday, September 7, the Wall Street Journal reported a story with this headline Why the USTA Benched America's Best Junior - Taylor Townsend May Be the World's No. 1 Junior Girl, but Her Coaches Say She Needs to Get in Better Shape. Subsequently, additional reports from bloggers to ABC News interviewing both Taylor and her mother, Shelia Townsend, have filled the conversation and drawn the ire of many of those who have either read or heard of the situation... including myself.

After viewing the ABC Good Morning America segment on the situation, I became even more livid at the report that Patrick McEnroe, General Manager of USTA Player Development told ABC that "the Open was never off limits to Taylor, that they simply suggested she take a pass after she struggled with her game earlier this summer" and that they "apologize for the miscommunication." Also during the segment I purposely observed Taylor and her Mother to ascertain their general coherency in light of just hearing that the viewing audience is supposed to believe that they BOTH misunderstood the same thing. They both appeared and sounded reasonable and well spoken to me... you know, can hear, understand, respond and talk and speak in English as well. The basic components necessary for making sound decisions based upon information given.

Subsequently, I did a bit of research and read a number of articles posted on the subject on various Internet sites. Yet, I continued to be mystified as to what was the actual root of the issue... something was missing. The 2+2 equation was never equaling 4 i.e., Why pull her now, at the US Open? Why wasn't she previously approached with these concerns? Why can't this be resolved after the Open? Why is Taylor currently being allowed to play if her fitness is truly an issue? If there was a "miscommunication" as the situation has been deemed by Patrick McEnroe, why wasn't the issue quickly clearly communicated to the Townsends?

With all of the frustration quickly building, opinions being voiced and articles being written, I didn't feel sufficiently confident on the facts of the matter to share my view with those who follow me here on Black Tennis Pro's. At that point, and prior to committing to a position on the matter, I needed firsthand information from the only reliable source I deemed worthy - the mother of this highly touted teen, Shelia Townsend.

I quickly located Ms. Townsend on Facebook, sent her a message and awaited a response. On Wednesday, September 12, she gave me a call and I had the pleasure of having a conversation with her on the matter.

After speaking with Ms. Townsend a lot of my anger subsided, not because I was now satisfied that they had been treated fairly, or that the situation had been resolved appropriately. I was now enlightened on the home foundation that loves and supports Taylor in all things. I was made confident that Taylor's mother and father firmly guide all that is required in rearing their children, and that no decision made outside of the Townsend household will ever prevent Taylor or any other member of their family from achieving their dreams.

Here is our conversation, I'm sure you'll find it as edifying as I did.

Hello Ms. Townsend, thank you so much for responding to my message, I really wanted to speak with you about what's going on, so I truly appreciate it.

Oh sure, no problem.

I was so glad to see how calm you remained during the interview that you and Taylor did with ABC, because my composure was not likewise just watching. What I'm most interested in up front is how this entire situation evolved. What was it specifically that led the USTA to approach Taylor with this matter?

Ahhhh... we don't know.

When we were inquiring about why they made the decision that they made, all we were told was that it was because of her fitness. And so I asked, exactly what did you use to determine her fitness level? Are you using previous documentation that you have in assessing her current fitness level? Was there a variance in the results? What is it?

I would like to see the evaluation report that you are using to make this decision, because if there is something that will facilitate my helping Taylor to understand, then you need to share that with me. You're just saying something without providing data, being very subjective. If you have something that is concrete, for instance - last week you did five of something, and this week you did one - who can argue with the numbers... you can't. But this was something where we weren't being given any information, they were just saying "her fitness."  So I asked them, "what is your definition of fitness? Does she need to run this many miles in this many minutes, does she need to do this many sit-ups in this amount of time, this many forehands - what is it? What are you using to define fitness?' And that's what we could never get an answer on.

And then I thought 'well surely its not because she hasn't done everything that she (her coach) has asked her to do. And in addition to whatever she asked her to do, Taylor is doing extra things on her own. We just didn't know. So Taylor was trying to do whatever she thought would help, and I helped facilitate whatever we thought they were looking for. But without any information, it was like grabbing at air. We didn't know if they wanted her to weigh a certain amount, or have a certain body mass index - what is it?

When and how were you all approached? Was she approached alone, or did they come to you?

Well, when it first started, she was approached alone, then I addressed the issue, but I still couldn't get any definitive answers from them.

Was it her coach, Patrick McEnroe or someone else that approached you all?

No, it wasn't Patrick McEnroe, we never had any direct contact with him at all. All of my correspondence was directed to, well it wasn't really even directed at her coach. My correspondence was primarily with the Director of Women's Tennis at that time.

Okay, now all of this, of course, happened prior to the US Open ever starting. What specifically was going on with Taylor at that time and how did she bring you into these new circumstances?

Well, she was at a tournament in Vancouver and I wasn't there with her. She called me and she told me that they had told her that they wanted her to withdraw out of the US hard courts and the US Open. They said that the reason that they wanted her to do that was that they wanted to take that block of time to really work on her fitness and conditioning.

She called me on a Tuesday, and I told her 'don't withdraw out of the tournament,' because if I could get everything together, that I would take her to San Diego so that she could play that event because it is the equivalent to Kalamazoo for the girls, where she possibly could have earned a wild card into the main draw for singles and doubles at the US Open.

(That automatic wild card went to USTA Girls' 18s National Champion Victoria Duval.)

I was trying to get things together but it was all happening so fast. Like I said, she found this out on a Tuesday, and was due to report to San Diego on Sunday, but was in Vancouver. I wasn't able to get everything together where I could take her to the event myself. But had I been able to get the resources together, I would have taken her. So I told her to just continue as she was, but absolutely do not withdraw out of the US Open because we had already been planning for that. It's not like it was something that suddenly dropped into our laps.

Now, when you decided that Taylor was going to play, had the USTA informed you that they wouldn't pay, or was there any further conversation?

Well, there decision was what they had already told her, that they wanted her to sit out the tournament. I told them that I heard what their decision was, but my decision was that Taylor would be participating in the event.

At that time, you went ahead and took care of the financing?

Yes.

My next question to Ms. Townsend began, "Tell me what your perspective is, how are you feeling about he situation, because any and all of the people that I speak with are just up in arms - my ability to speak English is being affected! (It was the first time that I heard Ms. Townsend laugh.) I then shared with her that I told those who I was speaking with, "before we storm the castle, let me try and contact Taylor's mother so that we have the truth of the matter." 

Well, I... it's so many different layers of things as it relates to how I'm feeling.  My whole thing was, I wanted my daughter to play - I wanted her to play, because she wanted to play. My feelings were, when it was really in the heart of it, 'how can you say this girl isn't fit, with all that she's been able to accomplish?  She would not have been able to accomplish the things that she had up to that point, if she was not fit.

Nobody, I don't care if it's tennis, if you are a business owner, if you are running a corporation or if you're in school, nobody is going to attain the level of No. 1 being lazy, being undisciplined, uncommitted and without sacrifice. So, nobody is about to deny her that opportunity. They have their opinion and I have mine. She has earned it, she has proven that she is more than capable, so she will be there.

Initially, I was really upset about the whole thing, I mean, 'how dare you.'  My issue was this, 'there is a way to do any and everything. You do things decently and in order.' I told them, 'at this particular juncture of  the evolution of this sport, any top ten player, whether football player, basketball player, you can go down the line, even in golf, what top athlete is not always working on their fitness, because they understand the evolution of their sport and the relevance and importance of having your body in the best condition that it can possibly be in.

Taylor is 16, we're talking about people who are adults. However, Taylor does understand that in order for her to get to the next level, that she has to focus in on her fitness and conditioning - they all do, so what's the big deal? From that aspect, I told them, had you done things differently, it probably never would have even come to this.Why all of a sudden now, at this particular time, is it such an issue?

That is exactly what I'm not understanding.

You can do all these things that you're talking about that you want to do, all of those things can start after the Open.  They could dedicate six to eight weeks, or whatever and when the end of the year events come, then her fitness level would be better than it is now.  Why all of a sudden with her in the middle of a season, she's come off of a win... Taylor won the Australian Open, she came home, I was still living in Atlanta, I did bring her home for a couple of weeks because of some personal issues with our family that she needed to be there for. Did I remove her from the program? No I didn't. I brought her home so that I could take care of personal family matters, then she went back to the program. When Taylor returned back to the program, no I had not been able to duplicate what is done in the program, but I did my best to mirror it while she was at home. Once she was back into the program full time, Taylor was not doing anything less than the quarterfinals and the rounds of 16. Her record speaks for itself.  How many people can say, or match her record, that in a year's time, out of the four grand slams she's gotten championships whether singles or doubles out of three of them.

Tell me this, after you temporarily brought Taylor home, did you get the impression that the leave caused an issue?

Not initially, no. Because I  told them that it had nothing to do with her tennis, that it was a personal family matter. I didn't want them under the impression that after she won the Australian Open that I was pulling her out to take her to other places, the leave had nothing to do with that. The issues that needed taking care of, just happened to be at that time, and that was the time that I took.

Later on I do think that it was some of the issue, because always in my discussions with them, they would always reference back to that and I wondered, 'why, since she's been back with them since March, it's nearly the end of the year and they are still talking about something that happened at the beginning of the year.'

Taylor, last year, played five events at the US Open - three on the professional side and two on the junior side.  She didn't even have the same accomplishments at that time. So why is it now, when her accomplishments are so much better, now her fitness is deemed to be less... it makes no sense.

It's mind boggling to me, and I believe that it's what is on the minds of so many others observing the situation. 

Right. I don't understand, how are you going to have a girl that's in your program, who's No. 1, she's been to every grand slam around the globe, and you mean to tell me that something is right here in our back yard and you're saying you don't want her to participate?

Incredible.

I think that Taylor had enough variables going for her that there is an interest in her. Because if she was ranked, say the number 500 Junior, do you think this would have gotten this much attention? The answer is no. But because she's been able to accomplish these things, it brings a different kind of light. And the sad part about it is, she's not the only one that this is happening to. She's not the only one with whom these types of conversations are being discussed, and not just girls.

Again, there's a way to do any and everything if you do it decently, if you do it in order. On the most simple basic level, its the words that you say and if they are matching up with your actions, then everybody is going to have a buy in. But if you're saying one thing, and doing something else, especially with kids, then it's going to be so confusing when they are already going through enough as a teenager anyway.

Exactly. This has been a large part of the public discourse. You have a 16-year-old girl here whose self image, worth and confidence could easily be affected.

I just thank God that I was able to be here. Because there's no way... if you think that this is mind boggling for you, imagine what it must be like for her at 16. There would have been no way that she would have ever been able to exactly verbalize and communicate effectively to me what was going on, all of the nuances of what was happening, if I was still not here.

How is Taylor feeling about all of this right now?

Taylor... I have just been so proud of her. I think that she has handled herself with such dignity and grace through this whole thing. You know why? Because we never did anything maliciously. Taylor just wanted to play, the girl just wanted to play. The fact that she has all of these things going on, its been like, "Oh, okay." But as far as her self esteem - well,  I knew that we were going through all of it and everything was unraveling, but I knew that three things had to be paramount for her to at least be in a state of mind where she could go out and give herself the best shot. I knew that we had to stay prayerful, I knew that she had to know that she had support, that people were supporting her and affirming her and continuing to build her up, and that she just felt loved. That she was in an environment where she just felt good in that environment. So I knew that if I could, despite everything that was going on, and all of the obstacles that she had to overcome, if those three things could be present because of what was going on, that 'it's not just your mom telling you you're the best, or your sister or your dad telling you that you're great, but that you have other people that are saying this too.' 

Just the fact that she was there, and have people come out. We had friends to come up, we had family to come up and watch her at various times. And just her knowing that these people were in the audience watching her, it gave her such a supportive feeling and foundation that, "Yeah, there's some people here that have my back."

It is so good to hear that Taylor has this kind of support, because without question, family comes first, and you sound like that's what you're all about.

Oh yeah.

And it's like I said, there are other kids that this is happening to, but there voices are not being heard.  You know, hopefully, if Taylor has to be the vessel/vehicle... we are a religious family, and we have a belief - I don't believe that things happen for no reason. We may not understand the reason, we may not like what's going on, and it might hurt really bad, but I believe in God, and he takes you through something to get you to something. And Taylor may just be in the right place for this to happen.

I have such a different perspective having her being away, and now being here and it is invaluable that the family stay close to their kids whether it's tennis, whether it's another sport or something else where the kids are really excelling, the parents have to stay close to their kids. And with this being a predominantly white elitist sport, it's even more imperative, that not just black kids, but any of the minority kids have somebody close to them, because their are issues and situations that come up and if there's not someone experienced around, how are they going to understand it and deal with it. They won't be able to simply because they haven't had that experience before.

How has your experience been with the USTA overall?

I think that there's a time and a season for everything. When we made the decision to allow Taylor to come to the USTA, she had only been trained by Mr. Young.     

And you're speaking of Donald Young, Sr., father of another World No. 1 Junior.

Yeah, he's been around me and my family since he and I were teenagers. Other than me playing with her, he was her only coach.  So it was a huge decision  for us to let her go. We were having some changes in our family dynamics and I couldn't afford it because at that time, our oldest daughter Symone was also playing competitively as well.  So I had two, and with the dynamics changing in our family I just couldn't afford it like I had before. So, when the opportunity came, Donald talked to us about her participating in the program and he encouraged us to do it. At that time he was telling me that she needed to live down there, and I wasn't prepared to just move down there when she might not even like it, and I would have relocated for nothing. So I wanted to wait and see what was going to happen before I made the decision to relocate.

Once I saw some things happening, I knew that I needed to be there. So on blind faith, I just came on down. I didn't have a job, I got my apartment pretty much doing everything online, it was just on blind faith.  I knew that she had to have somebody here with her, because at the end of the day, despite Taylor's tennis ability she was just 15, she's still a kid. Their responsibility is not to raise my daughter, that's my responsibility and her father's responsibility. They don't have the same principles, moral ethics... they're not trying to instill the things that I want, that's my responsibility. They are responsible for ten percent, and I'm responsible for the rest of the ninety.  That's why I felt like I had to get down there.

They have afforded her a lot of opportunities that I wouldn't have been able to afford her. So, has it been all bad? No. Could there be some improvements? Absolutely. But what organization can't stand some improvement.

Of course, nothings perfect.

Right. So, I don't say everything was bad, everything happens for a reason, everything has a season. Who knows where life is going to take us from this point.  At the end of the day, I want my daughter to be in an environment where she is surrounded by people who care about her, whose words and actions match up, and she's happy, she's having fun, she's enjoying herself, and she's putting in the work to be able to obtain the goals for the things that she want to do.  That's all that I want, and I don't think that's too much to ask.

Not at all. To your credit, she seems to be such a poised young lady in addition to her talent. She has some "home training" as my mother would say. And I think that's part of the concern for her in this situation. She has presented herself as nothing other than a bright talented teen, and those of us parents watching want to make sure she stays that way.

As a parent, that kind of compliment far outweighs any trophy, when somebody else says that your child is a mannerable person, and is presenting the values you instill in her, that's the reward.

I know exactly what you mean, my daughter is 24 years old and her behavior and welfare are no less important to me now than when she was Taylor's age. 

Yes, we have to protect our children because they can't protect themselves, and I don't want her to be living in fear. Because even as an adult, this was a bit of a scary move for me too, coming into so many unknown variables, having no job, and the list goes on and on.

What's the plan, is it to continue her training as is with the USTA?

I don't know at this time. As I said, Taylor has opened the door for a lot of opportunities for herself. We just need to do what's in the best interest of Taylor. That is what's first, and paramount. I am her advocate, her dad is her advocate and we just want her in the best environment to grow and develop. If that's with the USTA, that's fine - if it's not there, that's fine too.

At the end of our conversation I said "I thank you so very much for sharing your time and story with me Shelia. The first thing I noticed when I went to your Facebook page looking for some way to contact you, was how you spelled your name - I knew right then that you were right on time, because you spell Shelia the "right" way." We both had a good laugh at that. I let her know how important it was for me to hear the story directly from her and not take the multiple stories out there as brass fact.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Taylor, yourself, what you all are up to, any moves that you all are making?

No, I just hope that this facilitates a positive dialogue for the USTA, not just regarding myself and Taylor, but for others who find themselves in similar situations. She is not the first, and I don't think that she'll be the last. Hopefully she will, but if the organization doesn't improve, or have the ability to make changes, if they don't really take a look at some of the things that they are doing, then it's just going to continue to perpetuate. This will just be another story, and in time it will go away, people will forget and the same thing will happen again.

Also, hopefully they will be a bit more conscientious about some of the things that they are doing.  One of the things when I was sitting down talking to them, I said, 'you are a different type of school, you need to look at the coaches as teachers and the tennis courts as another type of classroom. And how would you feel if your child came home from school and said their teacher did blah, blah, blah, how would that make you feel? Don't get it misconstrued that just because you are a tennis coach and are on a tennis court. First you are a teacher - you are a teacher - and you have a greater responsibility just like the teachers in your child's school of bricks, mortar and steel, and they have a huge impact on that child's development, whether it's positive or negative.  Those people have a huge, huge impact, because they spend more time during the day than you spend with your kids. And they have a greater responsibility, as a teacher, they are held to a higher standard. I don't know that they really look at themselves in that particular way.  But a good and great teacher will produce a great student and that student will go on to do great things. Personally, I think they need to reevaluate how they do things and how they look at some of the roles. Hopefully this will generate some kind of positive change.

As we again began to conclude our conversation, I thanked Shelia again and told her that I think people will look at the situation a bit differently after reading this, because I now felt differently about it. She then turned the interview tables and asked "Well how do you feel?" This is what I shared with her.

"The first thing I feel better about is you, as her mother. A strong person providing the family life that Taylor needs, and that NOTHING will be done at the USTA or anyplace else unless her parents approve of it because she's your daughter first and last.

The most important thing for me is that I no longer feel as if Taylor is being "beat up," if you will, by this big organization and that whatever goes on at the USTA with regards to Taylor has to come through you and her father. That you all are her mainstay. That releases that parental need of mine to protect this child. Now I know that she has that protection in her own parents."

Yeah, they can make it hard sometimes, but they only make me better and keep it moving.



This interview is the sole property of  Black Tennis Pro's. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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SERENA WILLIAMS VOICES OPINION ON TOWNSEND INCIDENT: ''If that happened, that's obviously a tragedy, because everyone deserves to play."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

World No. 1 Junior and 2012 US Open Doubles Champion Taylor Townsend

Serena Williams says she's alarmed by the U.S. Tennis Association's decision to hold a top junior player out of competition over concerns about her fitness.

Sixteen-year-old Taylor Townsend is the world's top-ranked girl. The Wall Street Journal first reported last week that the USTA withheld funding her tournament appearances while she focused on getting in better shape.

''If that happened, that's obviously a tragedy, because everyone deserves to play,'' Williams said Monday, a day after winning the U.S. Open.

''She's so sweet and she works so hard,'' she added. ''For a female, particularly, in the United States, in particular, and African-American, to have to deal with that is unnecessary. ... Women athletes come in all different sizes and shapes and colors and everything. I think you can see that more than anywhere on the tennis tour.''

Townsend played at the Open, winning the junior doubles title and reaching the quarterfinals in singles.

''She's still No. 1,'' Williams said. ''That's saying something.''


Source AP
Photo Getty Images


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GOOD LUCK: Ahsha Rolle And Madison Keys Amidst The Field Vying For a U.S. Open Wildcard Spot

Thursday, August 18, 2011

American Ahsha Rolle


USTA Player Development announced the eight men and eight women who will participate in the second annual US Open Wild Card Playoff, being held at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, a USTA Certified Regional Training Center in College Park, Md., August 18-20.  The winners will receive main draw singles wild cards into the men’s and women’s draws at the 2011 US Open.

Madison Keys, USA
The men’s field includes top-seeded Bobby Reynolds (Acworth, Ga.), a former All-American at Vanderbilt who has been as high as No. 63 in the world on the ATP World Tour and is currently No. 120; and Bjorn Fratangelo (Plum, Pa.), who in June became the first American since John McEnroe in 1977 to win the French Open boys’ singles title.

The local favorites will be Denis Kudla (Arlington, Va.), and Mitchell Frank (Annandale, Va.), who both train at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.  Kudla, who reached the quarterfinals of the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I., in July, is currently ranked No. 325 in the world and was the US Open boys’ singles runner-up last year. Frank, an incoming freshman at the University of Virginia, was the runner-up at the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships last week.

Four of last season’s top collegians round out the men’s field. Daniel Kosakowski (Huntington Park, Calif.) turned professional after his freshman year at UCLA and recently won his first Tour-level match at the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles. Tennys Sandgren (Gallatin, Tenn.), a rising junior at the University of Tennessee, recently won back-to-back Futures titles on the USTA Pro Circuit.  Rhyne Williams (Knoxville, Tenn.), the 2011 NCAA singles runner-up for the University of Tennessee, turned pro after winning his second professional title in June at the USTA Pro Circuit Futures in Innisbrook, Fla.  Bradley Klahn (Poway, Calif.) won the 2010 NCAA men’s singles title and will be a senior at Stanford this fall.

The women’s field includes top-seeded Julia Cohen (Philadelphia), a former All-American for the University of Miami who in May reached the final of an ITF Pro Circuit $25,000 event in Thailand; and local favorite Beatrice Capra (Ellicott City, Md.), who won this event last year and subsequently reached the third round of the 2010 US Open.

The women’s field also includes two former USTA Girls’ 18s National Champions in 2007 champion Ashley Weinhold (Austin, Texas), and 2008 champion Gail Brodsky (Brooklyn, N.Y.), as well as two-time USTA Girls’ 18s runner-up Nicole Gibbs (Santa Monica, Calif.), who as a freshman helped lead Stanford to the final of the 2011 NCAA women’s team championships.

Rounding out the field are Madison Keys (Boca Raton, Fla.), who won her first professional title in 2010 at the USTA Pro Circuit $10,000 event in Cleveland; Jessica Pegula (Boca Raton, Fla.), who reached her first professional final in January at the USTA Pro Circuit $25,000 event in Lutz, Fla.; and Ahsha Rolle (Miami Shores, Fla.), a 10-time champion on the USTA Pro Circuit who reached the third round of the 2007 US Open.

Seeding for the event is based on this week’s ATP World Tour and WTA Rankings, and there will be media availability with the players on Wednesday, August 17.  For additional information including ticket pricing, please visit www.jtcc.org.



Source: usta.com

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2011 US OPEN: Queen Latifah And Cyndi Lauper Set To Perform During 911 Tribute

Saturday, August 13, 2011

(L-R) Entertainers Queen Latifah and Cyndi Lauper scheduled to perform during 911 tribute at 2011 US Open.


Vegosen
On Finals Weekend, the USTA and the US Open will remember those whose lives were lost on September 11, 2001, with a pair of pre-match ceremonies in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Prior to the start of the prime-time women’s singles final on Saturday, September 10, there will be a special performance by Grammy and Emmy Award-winner Cyndi Lauper. On Sunday, September 11, Queen Latifah – musician, television and film actress, label president and author – will preside over a tribute before the start of the men’s singles final. Queen Latifah performed at the US Open’s first ever Opening Night Ceremony in 2002, which was 9/11 themed.

For both the women’s and men’s singles championships "9-11-01" will be inscribed on Arthur Ashe Stadium court as part of this memorial tribute. The USTA also will include on the upper ring encircling Arthur Ashe Stadium the 9-11 memorial logo developed by the City of New York. This logo will replace a USOpen.org logo that will be in place prior to Finals Weekend.

"The USTA’s goal is to mark this solemn occasion in a dignified and respectful manner," said Jon Vegosen, USTA Chairman of the Board and President. "We are one of this nation’s global stages on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, and we have a special responsibility to honor those fallen and those who responded heroically on that fateful day."

Each ceremony will include a moment of silence and the unfurling of a giant American flag over the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium by a United States Marines Corps color guard. On Sunday, the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, the two men’s players competing in the Final will enter the court through an honor guard comprised of members of the New York Police Department, the Fire Department of New York and the Port Authority Police. There also will be a military flyover on Sunday, September 11, at the conclusion of the ceremony. CBS Sports will present live coverage of each ceremony as part of its broadcasts of the prime-time women’s final and Sunday afternoon men’s final.

In addition to the Finals Weekend ceremonies, the US Open tradition of boys and girls singing patriotic-themed songs in Arthur Ashe Stadium continues in 2011. Talented vocalists ages 12 and under are scheduled to perform nightly on Center Court after being selected in June by a celebrity panel of judges at the fifth annual open casting call, held at Harlem’s World Famous Apollo Theater in New York City.



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WTA: Getting To Know ... Sloane Stephens

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Black Tennis Pros Sloane Stephens WTA Getting To Know

American prospect Sloane Stephens was a three-time junior Grand Slam doubles champion in 2010, but having celebrated her 18th birthday on March 20, her attention is very much on the big leagues now. A native of Plantation, Florida, Stephens played her first three WTA main draws in last year, reaching the second round at Indian Wells and Bastad, and falling to seeds both times. Currently ranked No.192, the 170cm player takes to the court in Miami on Tuesday, gunning for a main draw berth at what should feel like her home tournament, the Sony Ericsson Open.

We caught up with Sloane during the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, where as a wildcard she reached the second round before bumping into eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki.

How did you get into tennis?
SS: When I was young we lived across the road from a country club. My late stepfather played there every day, and when I was about nine I started playing there after school.

Tell us about your family.
SS: My mother and my brother are in Los Angeles - I live with them when I'm not on the road. My brother Shawn is 12 years old, and he plays baseball. My mom, Sybil, is a teacher.

What's your coaching situation at the moment?
SS: I work with Nick Saviano and Roger Smith, who was my former USTA coach in Carson, California and still travels with me. They are the main coaches I've worked with for the past three or four years.

How do you describe your playing style?
SS: I'm an aggressive baseliner, looking to come in.

Are you working on any particular aspect of your game at the moment?
SS: Yes, everything. Serving, returning, coming in more, approaching…

If you could steal a shot from another player, what would it be?
SS: I would steal Roger Federer's 'tweener.

Favorite surface or tournament?
SS: My favorite surface is red clay. My favorite tournament is the French Open. And my favorite city is… Paris! I love the architecture, the history.

What are your goals in tennis?
SS: Just to be the best player I can be. Not based on rankings, but based on doing my best to fulfill my potential.

Did you have a tennis idol when you were growing up?
SS: Of course… Venus and Serena, and also Kim Clijsters - she is a great person and I love the way she carries herself. They have been my main tennis inspirations through my career up until now.

Who has been your toughest opponent to date?
SS: I'd have to say Vera Zvonareva at Indian Wells in 2010.

Best tennis memory to date?
SS: Beating Venus in World TeamTennis a couple of years ago.

How far did you go in your education?
SS: I'm still going… I'm a senior in high school! And after that I'm going to start at Kaplan University, an online college.

What do you like about like on tour? What's tough?
SS: Traveling such a lot is tough, but I love seeing new places and cultures, meeting new people and being involved in everything.

What do you do to relax?
SS: I go on my computer, I Skype with family, read on my Kindle.

Favorite book, film, music?
SS: Books... the Twilight series; film, I'd have to say Inside Man; music - anything with a good beat!

What non-tennis skill do you wish you had?
SS: I really wish I could sing, and speak Spanish. I need to work on both of those areas, because at the moment my skills are very limited.

If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
SS: Giggling.

What quality do you most appreciate in others?
SS: I appreciate people who are considerate of others at all times. Just understanding situations and being open to adjusting and adapting.

Apart from family and friends, what's your most treasured possession?
SS: I have to say a necklace that my grandparents gave me. I wear it the whole time. Every match, all day long. I don't even take it off to shower.

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you like it to be?
SS: That's a hard one. I'd have to go with Elton John.

What might you have done if you didn't become a tennis player?
SS: I'd probably go to university. But I don't know what I'd study… right now I can't see myself doing anything other than playing tennis.




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USTA: USTA, First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" Campaign Team Up To Make A Difference For Kids

Monday, March 7, 2011

Black Tennis Pro's Michelle Obama USTA Joins Let's MoveThe USTA and First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move!" campaign have teamed up to encourage young people across the country to get active, try tennis and lead healthy lifestyles. Components of the collaboration include a new public service announcement to air nationwide, the construction and renovation of thousands of tennis courts across the country and the commitment to encourage 200,000 children to participate in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.

"It’s important for kids to get the hour of active play they need every day, and there are so many fun things that each of us can do to be healthier," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "Thanks to programs like the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis initiative, it’s easier than ever for kids to get active and have fun. And that’s a big part of what we’re doing with Let’s Move!, America’s campaign to raise a healthier generation of kids.

"Tennis is the sport of opportunity. With our new 10 and Under initiative, tennis is also the newest ‘pick-up sport,’ where kids can play in schools, in parks, at clubs and even at home," said Jon Vegosen, USTA Chairman of the Board and President. "Our new collaboration with the First Lady and ‘Let’s Move!’ will help us reach more families to teach them that tennis is easier to learn and access than ever before."

Working with the Office of the First Lady, the USTA is launching a public service announcement to promote tennis as part of the 60 minutes of play a day kids need. The PSA features First Lady Michelle Obama, Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf, all of whom play the role of ballpersons for youngsters playing tennis on courts and with equipment correctly sized for them. Ensuring that children compete with properly sized equipment and on smaller courts is a key component of the USTA’s new 10 and Under Tennis initiative designed to make tennis easier, more accessible and more fun. 10 and Under Tennis is real tennis brought to scale for the sport’s youngest participants, with slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls, lighter and smaller racquets and shorter courts.

The USTA plans to create both a 60-second and a 30-second version of this PSA. Initial plans call for the PSA to be used in tennis programming on CBS Sports, ESPN and Tennis Channel. The PSA will go into broader rotation during the summer months leading up to the US Open, which takes place from August 29 through September 11.

Additionally, the USTA, through its facilities assistance arm, is committed to constructing and renovating 3,000 tennis courts across the country in 2011. As part of this program, all courts that are built or renovated will be lined to enable use in the QuickStart Tennis play format. As part of a public-private partnership, the USTA will build the courts in places where local officials, public parks and schools commit to building tennis into their core programming for kids. The USTA has created a website – USTA.com/facilities – for those groups interested in applying for court construction or renovation and learning more about this major initiative. For more information on 10 & Under Tennis, visit 10andundertennis.com.

In another component of the collaboration, the USTA will use its national resources and programs to encourage 200,000 kids to take the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA), which encourages young Americans to be active 60 minutes a day, five days a week for six weeks in an eight-week period. PALA’s national goal is to get one million youngsters to take this challenge. The USTA plans to activate its National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) network, which has 602 chapters impacting more than 250,000 kids, to meet this goal.

"Tennis Night in America" featuring the "BNP Paribas Showdown" on February 28 will serve as the kick-off event for the 2011 tennis season across the country. More than 600 tennis facilities will be participating in the USTA’s third annual National Youth Registration initiative, a month-long event. Tennis Night in America will serve as "opening day" for facilities to sign up children for spring and summer programs, with youth registration events around the country encouraging parents to get involved by volunteering and for everyone to learn more about tennis.


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