Before the seriousness of the U.S. Open competition took over, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was a site for laughter and fun as children took part in the 13th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on Saturday, August 23.
The event, which was presented by Hess, gave kids a chance to participate in tennis skills activities and clinics, see some of the pros and attend a stadium show. A portion of the day’s proceeds benefited the USTA National Junior Tennis League.
“I love Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day,” said 8-year-old Cindy Coles, whose favorite part of the day was getting her photo taken with Roger Federer.
Melvin Bogans said that he comes to the event every year with 11-year-old Amanda. She was first introduced to the sport four years ago and has liked it ever since. “I just like coming here to the stadium just to see the pros,” Amanda said.
Cheyenne Brown, a 12-year-old from New Jersey, is a tennis player, which is why she and Robbin Brown came out to the event. She too said that her favorite part is getting a chance to see the pros playing at the stadium.
Tennis player Michael McClune started playing tennis when he was about four years old. He said that Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day is great since it gets the sport out there more.
“When you start younger it’s a lot easier to get involved and get better,” McClune said.
The stadium show featured live tennis matches and a concert. Some of the celebrity participants who were on hand were Susie Castillo of MTV, Quddus of Nickelodeon, actors Stanley Tucci and Mark Indelicato, U.S. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Cullen Jones, and musicians Demi Lovato, Colby O’Donis and Menudo. Tennis players such as Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Ana Ivanovic, James Blake and Novak Djokovic were also participants.
Indelicato, a star of the television show “Ugly Betty,” said that he wasn’t familiar with Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day but thought it was for a great cause and would also be fun for him. He played a tennis match with Blake as his partner.
“A lot of kids now…don’t go outside and play sports. They stay home and play video games,” Indelicato said. “It’s really important to see these athletes play a sport they love and to encourage kids to get out there and do the same.”
This marked the seventh year that Quddus has been at the event as a host, saying that he wants to carry on the legacy of Arthur Ashe, who has been an inspiration to him. He also said that his favorite part of the event is seeing the skill challenges.
Singer/songwriter O’Donis was excited for his first time participating in Kids’ Day. He said that he hoped the children had fun and potentially found a new love for the sport.
Tucci was also participating in the event for the first time, saying that he was more than happy to come act as an umpire for a couple of the matches when asked to do so. A big fan of the sport who began following it as a child, he said that it is fantastic that there is a stadium in memory of a man who was a great tennis player and great humanitarian. He also spoke about doing anything you can to get children interested in tennis.
“It’s a great sport that you can play for a very long time,” Tucci said.