Tag Archives: Tennis

US Open inadvertently shines a light on local soccer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

For many tennis fans the US Open is the closest thing to heaven.

The chance to watch the world’s premier tennis players battle for the country’s top title and partake in numerous tennis-related activities draws some 700,000 fans annually to the two-week sporting event in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

But inadvertently, the Grand Slam literally shone a light on soccer as The Courier observed fans of the world’s most popular sport playing games under the lights of a US Open parking lot on Monday—the tournament’s opening night.

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The soccer players were of various ages and played mixed-gender pick-up games, complete with two white mini goals.

Anyone who frequents Flushing Meadows Corona Park knows how popular soccer is for local players and fans. On any given day—with appropriate climate conditions—the fields are occupied with soccer matches for various age groups.

The sport is so popular officials tried to build a 20,000 to 25,000-seat stadium in the park for a new MLS team. But park advocates fought to keep the stadium out.

Since the soccer fields don’t have lights, most stop playing when it becomes night time, according to players.

However, temporary lights have been set up in the US Open “H” parking lot near the New York Hall of Science as evening matches tend to run late into the night, giving Queens soccer lovers some extra playing time.

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PHOTOS: US Open 2014 Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Dominick Totino Photography

Tennis and music stars collided on Saturday to bring a day filled with performances and fun activities at the 19th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day.

While signaling the start of the two-week US Open in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the event featured performances from country superstar Hunter Hayes, duo MKTO, girl group McClain, British pop rock band The Vamps, teen sensation Madison Beer and DJ Salerno among others, as well as appearances from pro players Novak Djokovic and Sloane Stephens.

Besides the performances, there were a variety of tennis programs for kids to learn more about the game, such as courts with professional teachers, technology to test the speed of their serves and obstacle courses to challenge their agility and balance. There was also face painting, juggling performances and various other acts for children to enjoy.

 

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Wristband collects fans’ experiences at US Open tent


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Dominick Totino Photography

In case you’re at the US Open and wondering what those funky royal blue bracelets are that many people are wearing, they are called MyOpen Passes.

American Express brought the RFID-enabled wristbands to the Grand Slam for the first time, giving users a way to record their experiences in its tent without charge.

During the two-week tennis tournament, fans who enter the American Express Fan Experience area and use its stations will be sent an email with details and pictures of their activities via the wristband technology.

In the swing analysis station, for example, a machine measures someone’s impact position, racquet speed and spin rate, aiming to help players use that data to improve. The results will be sent to the fan through the bracelet.

To use the wristband, fans have to register for it when they enter the tent.

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Besides the swing analysis, fans can pose for images in a station called pro cam, where numerous cameras are mounted in a half-circle. The resulting image moves in 180 degrees, showing the photo from various angles.

And for those fans who want to take a picture with a pro player, but have not been lucky enough to meet one, rest assured, because there is also a station where fans can take a picture with a hologram of Sloane Stephens.

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19th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day to kick off US Open with concerts, tennis programs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Dominick Totino

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is hoping to kick off the US Open with a blast through the 19th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day event.

Tennis and musical stars will combine on Saturday to bring a day of fun activities and performances, while signaling the start of the two-week Grand Slam tournament in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Every year, Kids’ Day displays some of the music industry’s top up-and-coming performers at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Last year, Ariana Grande and Austin Mahone took part in the event, and past acts include Justin Bieber, Rihanna, the Jonas Brothers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sean Kingston, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys.

This year country superstar Hunter Hayes, duo MKTO, girl group McClain, British pop rock band The Vamps, teen sensation Madison Beer and DJ Salerno, among others will headline the list of performers for the event.

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Besides the concerts, there will be a variety of tennis programs for kids to learn more about the game, such as lessons with professional teachers, special technology to test the speed of kids’ serves and obstacle courses to challenge agility and balance. Fans can also get autographs and watch some pros as they practice for the tournament.

“Not only is Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess a fantastic way to kick off the US Open, but it’s also a great time to encourage youth to be active, play tennis and develop healthy habits,” said USTA Executive Director and COO Gordon Smith. “This annual event continues to bring the entire family together for a fun-filled day of sports and entertainment.”

Michelle

Various celebrities and tennis stars usually host the Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. First lady Michelle Obama and Serena Williams shared the stage in last year’s event. This year, actors Jeff Sutphen, China Anne McClain and fitness trainer Shaun T will host the event and US Open men’s singles No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic will make an appearance.

For more information on the event, click here.

 

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Serena Williams to host tennis clinic with Queens youngsters


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Dominick Totino

Defending US Open champion Serena Williams is set to serve up a fun clinic for some lucky local kids.

The 17-time Grand Slam singles champion is hosting a youth tennis clinic on Thursday just days before the 2014 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

About 25 children ages 7 to 12 from the Corona-based Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities Community Center are set to meet and play with Williams.

The clinic is part of the “Returning the Love” initiative, where players reach out to surrounding community organizations both on and off the court.

 

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Fresh Meadows tennis pro competing for US Open spot


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy USTA Middle States


A Fresh Meadows tennis player is closing in on a spot in the US Open later this year, but she’ll have to fight her way in.

Jennifer Elie, 27, won the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Middle States sectional national playoffs tournament on June 24, which slots her in as a wild card in the US Open qualifying tournament held a week prior to the national Grand Slam in August. Should Elie win that draw, she’ll advance to the US Open.

Elie, who played for Francis Lewis High School, has been a consistent player on the USTA Pro Circuit and in International Tennis Federation (ITF) events. She won two ITF singles titles in 2012 in Caracas, Venezuela, and has also won four USTA Pro Circuit and ITF-level doubles events.

Elie, who peaked at No. 286 in the world in April 2013, has a win over current world No. 18 Sloane Stephens at a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Kentucky in 2011.

 

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Benjamin Cardozo HS tennis star takes city title again


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre



She’s done it again.

Benjamin Cardozo junior tennis player Sabrina Xiong became a two-time PSAL individual champion after defeating Stefani Lineva of Forest Hills High School on Wednesday at the National Tennis Center.

Xiong, who ranks first in the PSAL and also in the United States Tennis Association’s under 16 eastern section, was in top form and breezed past Lineva in two sets (6-1, 6-1).

“It’s definitely a feel great feeling just knowing that all my hard work and training paid off,” she said.

Xiong, who has been in contact with NCAA Division 1 college coaches, dreams of turning pro one day but first plans to go to college and major in economics.

But before she heads to the next level, Xiong still has something left to accomplish at the high school level.

During her career at Cardozo, the Judges have come up short in the PSAL team tennis finals for three consecutive years. They lost against Beacon High School (4-1) on May 13— Xiong won the only match in the best of five series.

In her senior year next season she hopes to lead Cardozo to a team championship.

“Cardozo has always been top in tennis,” Xiong said. “Unfortunately, we’ve fallen short in the past three years. It would be great if we got it.”

 

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US Open generates $720M, draws thousands to Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Dominick Totino Photography

It’s game, set and match for the US Open.

For another year the star-studded tournament attracted thousands of tennis fans to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and created a certain buzz in Queens.

The Open generated an overall economic impact of approximately $720 million for the city, according to the United States Tennis Association (USTA), and more than 713,000 fans attended the two-week event.

“Hotels were so overbooked that they sent customers to different venues,” said Rob McKay, director of tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation.

The Queens Tourism Council, in conjunction with the Queens Chamber of Commerce, organized an information kiosk at the Tennis Center that gave away about 2,000 Queens guidebooks to tennis fans that wanted to learn more about the borough. Kiosk volunteers also spoke to thousands of fans about hotels, restaurants and cultural spots.

The New York Hall of Science offered free general admission during the tournament and had a big exhibit on tennis legend Arthur Ashe with movies and interactive machines.

The starry atmosphere at the Open featured an abundance of celebrities, including former President Bill Clinton, “Sex and the City” actress Sarah Jessica Parker, musician Justin Timberlake, actor Ben Stiller and New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire.

Serena Williams, the number one ranked women’s player, won the women’s final 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1, after a windy match in Arthur Ashe Stadium against no. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka. The championship is Serena’s fifth US Open title and 17th Grand Slam win, which puts her at sixth place in women’s tennis history.

“I felt almost disappointed with my year to be honest,” said Williams, who only made the quarter finals in the Australian Open and the 4th round of Wimbledon. “So I definitely feel a lot better with at least a second Grand Slam under my belt this year.”

No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal, who suffered a stunning defeat in the first round of Wimbledon in June, defeated the number one ranked male player, Novak Djokovic, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to win his 13th Grand Slam and second US Open.

“It’s true that I am playing more aggressively than before, more inside court, closer to the baseline, going more for the points, but all this is possible because I am playing well,” Nadal said.

Both champions collected $3.6 million in prize money.

 

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‘Biggest Loser’ trainer Bob Harper helps kids get active at US Open


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Fitness expert and “Biggest Loser” star Bob Harper served up some fun for children at the US Open.

Harper played tennis with young players on Saturday, August 31, after helping the United States Tennis Association (USTA) announce a new coalition to get kids active and healthy through sports.

The tennis association is partnering with 20 national sports governing bodies, such as USA Volleyball and USA Fencing, and other programs, including first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative for the joint venture.

Experts at the press conference agreed that children want to have fun and play, but adults need to do more to give them the opportunity to be active.

“Play is the work of children,” said Dr. Alexis Covine, USTA chief medical officer. “The reason why they would is because it’s fun.”

The tennis association and the national governing bodies will come together in roundtables to discuss the right path to get kids active.

So far their three goals are to: “Make a positive impact on the development of all athletes regardless of ability or income; Elevate the status and expectations of everyone coaching our youth from parent volunteers to career coaches; To drive improvements within the youth sports structure as a whole.”

The USTA has made strides towards these goal by eliminating rankings from 10 and Under Tennis programs so young players can play to have fun and they have started to push for use of smaller courts, racquets and balls that bounce lower to make the game easier. Before, if kids wanted to get into tennis they would have to use the same courts as adults.

Following the press conference Harper took to the practice courts to play tennis with children.

“Being active doesn’t need to be something that’s an albatross around your neck,” Harper said. “It’s about fun, it’s about getting out there with these kids, making a few moves, getting a little sweat on, I think it’s important to show kids and adults being active is a good and healthy way of life.”

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Tennis courts in land swap will still be used by USTA during Open


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Croft

The US Tennis Association (USTA) has agreed to give up some of its rented land in exchange for 0.68 acres the organization has eyed for expanding the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in an effort to placate critics of the project.

Two pieces of land make up the 1.56 acres that USTA will give back to the NYC Parks Department, according to a news release. One section spanning 0.75 acres is open access area and the remaining 0.81 acres include five tennis courts.

The deal has already drawn criticism from the project’s opponents, who pointed out the parcel of land that includes the courts was already publicly accessible. The only change involved in the deal is that the parks department will run the land.

While USTA will still maintain the courts for Parks, part of the agreement allows the organization to use the facilities during the two-week Open, according to a spokesperson.

Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, said the deal was null.

“They are swapping parkland that we already have access to for parkland that we already have access to,” he said.
USTA executives spent nearly a year lobbying for expansions on the tennis center’s southern border. The expansions would also relocate a connector road currently situated on land rented by the USTA.

But the status of the parkland, and the fact the USTA was not required to replace any lost, became a hot button issue as the project got approval.

“Understanding that every inch of parkland is precious and after seeking input and recommendations from the local Queens communities and elected officials, the USTA, in consultation with the Parks Department, decided it was in the best interest of all parties to propose a parkland swap,” said tennis center COO Danny Zausner.

The six community boards affected by the expansion were split on the project, but Borough President Helen Marshall ultimately recommended that it move forward.

During her April borough board meeting, which USTA executives attended, Marshall said parkland had to be replaced.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news and shows just how much we value every acre of parkland here in Queens,” Marshall said upon the land swap becoming official. “My support for the USTA proposal was conditioned on the need to replace any alienated land in our borough’s flagship park.”

 

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USTA to give back land for National Tennis Center expansion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

It’s a land-for-land deal.

The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) has agreed to give up some of its rented land in exchange for the 0.68 acres the organization needs to expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Two pieces of land make up the 1.56 acres that USTA will give back to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, according to a news release. The first 0.75 acres is open access area, with the second 0.81 acres is open recreation with five tennis courts.

USTA executives have spent nearly a year lobbying for expansions at the tennis center, which would expand the tennis center’s property to the south. Expansions would also relocate a connector road currently situated on rented land by USTA.

“At the outset of the project, the City suggested that park improvements would result in a more meaningful degree of public benefit than an in-kind replacement for the 0.68 acres that is proposed for alienation,” said Tennis Center COO Danny Zausner. “However, understanding that every inch of parkland is precious and after seeking input and recommendations from the local Queens communities and elected officials, the USTA, in consultation with the Parks Department, decided it was in the best interest of all parties to propose a parkland swap.”

Community boards were split on recommending the project going through, but Borough President Helen Marshall ultimately recommended the expansion carry on.

During her April Borough Board meeting, with USTA executive present, Marshall said parkland had to be replaced, something that was not required of the organization.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news and shows just how much we value every acre of parkland here in Queens,” Marshall said upon today’s announcement. “My support for the USTA proposal was conditioned on the need to replace any alienated land in our borough’s flagship park.”

 

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Borough President backs National Tennis Center expansion


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Borough President Helen Marshall is recommending the city and state go forward with proposed expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Marshall’s Borough Board was one councilmember short at the Monday, April 8 meeting to take a vote, thus forcing her to give her ultimate “yes” recommendation.

“While the Borough Board is not voting tonight,” Marshal said. “I am submitting my formal recommendation later this week. And I can tell you that I am insisting that any alienated parkland must be replaced.”

During the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), the six voting Community Boards were split on the project. The three voting Community Boards that voted yes attached conditions mainly focused on the US Tennis Association being part of a conservancy for the park.

The plan, if approved next by the City Council and the state legislature, could begin this fall, according to USTA officials. Roughly 800 full-time construction jobs are expected for Queens workers over the six-year construction period.

While the project will only eat up about 0.68 acres of green space to the south of the Tennis Center, USTA has now promised to replace that land.

Danny Zausner, chief operating officer at the USTA, said lowering the southern border would ease foot traffic during the US Open. The relocated connector road, currently on the property leased to USTA, would now include sidewalks if the plan is approved.

Expansion at the tennis center and USTA’s community outreach have been questioned by some, however.

Councilmember Peter Koo, one of four city lawmakers at the meeting, told Zausner that small business owners in the past said they were rejected when trying to work with USTA to drive tennis fans into Flushing during the US Open.

Zausner, addressing Koo’s questions, said the association had worked with local businesses in surrounding neighborhoods, including Corona and Flushing, and had seen productive economic revenue to those areas.

But while there had been success, with Zausner pointing to the Sheraton LaGuardia East in Downtown Flushing, he said the USTA could further dialogue with more business owners.

“They [patrons] come for the day session, they run out for dinner either on the Corona side or the Flushing side, and then they come back for the night session,” Zausner said after the meeting. “As I mentioned to the councilmember, I think we’re doing a lot already but there’s no question we could be doing more.”

Borough President Helen Marshall delivers her remarks on expansion at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen)

 

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Op-Ed: What USTA means to me


| oped@queenscourier.com

JenYu

BY JENNIFER YU

I often joke with my parents that I “live at the National Tennis Center (NTC).” That’s because I play tennis there practically every morning before school and also participate in two of their afternoon tennis programs. It’s great because I get to play tennis and compete with kids who have become some of my best friends. Before and after hitting the courts, we all hang out, talk and do our homework together. It’s so much fun.

I’m really hoping that the people of Queens will support the USTA’s plan to make the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park even better than it is now.

The NTC is home to hundreds of community programs like the ones I get to participate in each year. Also, it’s a place where kids like me learn not only the rules of the game but the importance of teamwork, and it’s also where the world’s top players come for the US Open Championships. I hope to one day compete in the US Open.

I first started playing at the NTC when I was eight years old. At the time, I could never have imagined that I would become a competitive and ranked tennis player. I began playing in one of the NTC’s summer camps. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I got training every day. I improved my strokes and made new friends. It was awesome.

I now play in national and regional tournaments and am ranked 12th in the USTA’s Eastern Section’s 12′s age division. I owe a lot of that to the NTC for helping me become the competitive player I am today.

The NTC also helped me grow as a person. Before I began playing tennis at the NTC, I was pretty shy. But after winning some matches on the court, along with daily encouragement and support from my coaches and fellow tennis buddies, my confidence and self-esteem began to soar.

Tennis has become a really important part of my life and the NTC is the place where it all happens. It’s like a second home to me. I’ve met so many great people at the NTC, and I couldn’t be happier. I get to train with the top players in the Eastern Section and receive some of the best coaching in New York. What could be better!

Thanks to the NTC, I can also continue my training during the winter. Through the USTA’s training program (in partnership with the New York Junior Tennis League), competitive players like myself receive coaching, and many program participants go on to earn academic and/or tennis scholarships to college.

I ask the residents of Queens to support the USTA project because the NTC exposes kids like me to the great sport of tennis and also makes it affordable for us.

 

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Hundreds rally against development at Flushing Meadows


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The Unisphere was lit-up red for American Heart Month

Hundreds of residents packed into the Our Lady of Sorrows auditorium in Corona to make known that they want to keep their park.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the biggest park in Queens, is currently being considered for the development of a new shopping mall, two new stadiums and concert venues and several parking garages and roads inside the park.

“We are here this evening because we are going to discuss an area that is our neighbor, it means so much to us,” said Monsignor Thomas Healy of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Several people held up signs reading, “Don’t destroy our second home,” and “Don’t kill our nature.”

The Fairness Coalition of Queens, a group of nonprofit community and religious organizations, hosted the town hall meeting on Monday, September 17 to speak with the community about the effects of the potential projects in the 1,255-acre park.

Many residents are displeased with the proposed plans because they wish to keep an area that, for many, is the only open space available near home. They do not want to lose an area that many people use for both relaxation and exercise.

City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras was also in attendance, and spoke to an enthusiastic crowd about her love for Flushing Meadows.

“We understand that each inch of land we give up is an inch we are not getting back,” she said. “Today this [meeting] has shown to the world that our community does matter, and that our park is our park.”

Amongst hopeful developers are the Wilpon family, the owner of the New York Mets, who proposes to use parkland west of Citi Field to build the largest shopping mall in the city, at 1.4 million-square-feet.

Also, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) wishes to construct two new tennis stadiums and two parking garages within the park.

Danny Zausner, managing director of the tennis center, previously said that the USTA plans will not impact the spot in a footprint perspective.

“We’re taking our existing parking lots in that perimeter and building up,” Zausner said.

Finally, Major League Soccer (MLS) seeks to build a 25,000-seat stadium and concert venue, along with an additional parking garage.

Senator Jose Peralta advocates the construction of an MLS stadium, and has a number of supporters behind him.

Peralta, a Willets Point supporter who went to Monday’s meeting, says that having a new soccer field in a soccer-crazed community could only be beneficial. The number of construction, game-day and permanent jobs could be advantageous to the largely working-class population.

If an MLS stadium is constructed, the senator’s office is also looking into replacement parkland to establish nearby.

In a statement issued by the MLS, it is said that the organization is committed to securing another team for the league located in New York City, and are “thrilled about bringing the world’s sport to the world’s park.” MLS is open to working with the community to build a facility for everyone to enjoy, they said.

“A privately financed soccer stadium to replace a big hole in the ground filled with dirty water is a good deal for soccer fans and the park-goers who would get to enjoy the many upgrades to the park,” said Peralta.