Tag Archives: Tennis

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.

Andy Roddick to retire after U.S. Open


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Former U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick announced that at the conclusion of this year’s Open he is hanging up his racket and retiring from tennis.

The 30-year-old 2003 champion announced his decision at a press conference on Thursday, August 30 ahead of his second round match Friday night.

“I just feel like it’s time. I don’t know that I’m healthy enough or committed enough to go another year. I’ve always wanted to, in a perfect world, finish at this event. I’ve thought all year that I would know when I got to this tournament,” Roddick said. “When I was playing my first round, I knew.”

The most well-known American tennis player of his generation, Roddick said he’s not sure if he can give 100 percent both physically and mentally.

Roddick has struggled with injuries and finished outside the top 10 for the first time since 2001. He is currently ranked 22nd.

Known for his powerful serve — clocked as high as 155 mph — Roddick reached number one in the world following his victory at the U.S. Open in 2003, the last American male to win a Grand Slam title.

“I was pretty good for a long time,” he said. “For 13 or 14 years, I was invested fully every day.”

Roddick’s next match is Friday night at 7 p.m. against Bernard Tomic.

 

Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day is aces


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman

The kids came to celebrate their “love” of the game.

Thousands of tennis fans flooded the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing for the 17th Annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day — the official kickoff event for the US Open Tennis Championships — on Saturday, August 25.

Kids and their families enjoyed tennis exhibitions and skills competitions, featuring professional players Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick. On hand to celebrate the start of the US Open were jugglers, unicyclists and magicians who performed for crowds in tennis-themed outfits.

Tots toted oversized, electric-yellow tennis balls, gathering signatures from on-site hall-of-famers. Young players who wanted to show their skills on the court faced off in tournaments throughout the day.

“[Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day] holds a long standing history of providing a day of fun-filled family activities as attendees celebrate the life of Arthur Ashe and his mission to empower children of all ages through tennis,” said USTA executive director and chief operating officer Gordon Smith.

The day-long celebration was headlined by a concert, hosted by “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks and TV host Quddus, the event featured musical performances from “Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen, breakout stars The Wanted, Owl City, Mindless Behavior and Rachel Crow.

Allison, 7, and her brother Andrew, 5, from New Jersey, were overjoyed for the musical performances, which were a surprise to the pair until after they arrived. The tiny tennis enthusiasts had attended summer tennis camp not long before the US Open and were excited to see some professional players demonstrate their skills. The siblings had also taken part in the event’s face painting activity. Andrew sported tiger stripes while Allison rocked a floral design.

Olympic gold medal swimmer Missy Franklin and Matthew Morrison from “Glee” also made cameo appearances.

World’s top women to compete at US Open


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The USTA has announced that all 102 of the world’s top women, including 2012 Grand Slam singles champions Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka are entered in the women’s singles field for the 2012 US Open Tennis Championships.

Williams, Sharapova, and Azarenka will be joined in the field by former US Open champions Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Samantha Stosur, the defending champion. In all, 37 different countries are represented in the women’s field.

Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn $1.9 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money (for a total $2.9 million potential payout) based on their performances in the Emirates Airline US Open Series. The US Open Women’s Singles Championship is presented by JPMorgan Chase.

Three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters will make her final appearance in Flushing Meadows after announcing she will retire this year. Clijsters won the 2005, 2009 and 2010 US Open. She holds a 21-match winning streak at the US Open having not competed in Flushing from 2006-2008 and last year. In 2009, Clijsters became the first unseeded player and first wild card to win the US Open women’s singles title.

Leading the entry list is world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who won her first Grand Slam singles title at the 2012 Australian Open, defeating Maria Sharapova in the final. With the win,

Azarenka ascended to No. 1 in the world for the first time in her career.

Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, is ranked a career-high No. 2 in the world. She pushed Serena Williams to three sets in the 2012 Wimbledon final and became the first Polish player in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam singles final.

World No. 3 Maria Sharapova of Russia, won the 2012 French Open title and subsequently captured the career Grand Slam with the win. She also regained the world No. 1 ranking following the French Open and through Wimbledon—a ranking she had not held since May 2008.

Following Azarenka, Radwanska, and Sharapova on the entry list are No. 4 Serena Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon title this year and 14th Grand Slam singles title overall; No. 5 Samantha Stosur of Australia, the defending US Open champion; No. 6 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, the 2011 Wimbledon champion; No. 7 Angelique Kerber of Germany, a 2012 Wimbledon semifinalist; No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, the 2009 US Open runner-up; No. 9 Sara Errani of Italy, the 2012 French Open runner-up; and No. 10 Marion Bartoli of France, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up.

Altogether, there are 10 players who have won Grand Slam singles titles in their careers competing in the US Open this year, including former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, who won the 2008 French Open, and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.

Virginie Razzano of France, ranked No. 102, is the last player accepted directly into the women’s field of 128. Additionally, two players used protected rankings to gain direct entry—Agnes Szavay of Hungary, and Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland. Sixteen more players will gain entry through the US Open Qualifying Tournament, August 21-24, while the remaining eight spots are wild cards awarded by the USTA.

Other American women who received direct entry into this year’s tournament include: No. 27

Christina McHale of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and No. 44 Varvara Lepchenko of Allentown, Pa., who

both train at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the USTA Training Center-East

and have been named to the U.S. Olympic Team; No. 50 Sloane Stephens of Coral Springs, Fla.;

No. 59 Vania King of Boynton Beach, Fla.; No. 68 Venus Williams of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.,

the 2000 and 2001 US Open champion; No. 69 Coco Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., the

2008 US Open girls’ singles champion; No. 84 Jamie Hampton of Auburn, Ala.; and No. 85 Irina

Falconi of Atlanta.

Among the players competing in the US Open Qualifying Tournament will be the winner of the third annual US Open National Playoffs – Women’s Championship presented by playtennis.com, held during the Emirates Airline US Open Series event in New Haven, Conn., prior to the US Open

Qualifying Tournament. The USTA created the US Open National Playoffs last year to allow players

14-and-older, regardless of playing ability or nationality, to vie for a spot in the US Open Qualifying

Tournament via one of 13 Sectional Qualifying Tournaments.

The July 16 edition of the WTA rankings was used to determine the US Open main draw entry list. Seeds will be determined and announced closer to the start of the event.

The 2012 US Open will mark the culmination of the Emirates Airline US Open Series, the North American summer season of 10 ATP World Tour and WTA events that began July 9. The US Open is the highest attended annual sporting event in the world. More than 80 million viewers watched the 2011 US Open on CBS Sports, ESPN2 and Tennis Channel, and international broadcasts reached 180 countries.

Men’s lineup at the US Open


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

World No. 1 and five-time US Open singles champion Roger Federer, defending US Open champion Novak Djokovic, and former US Open champions Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro lead the men’s singles field for the 2012 US Open Tennis Championships.

Each of the world’s top 101 men received direct entry into the US Open, representing 37 countries.

The 2012 US Open will be played August 27 – September 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn $1.9 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money (for a total $2.9 million potential payout) based on their performances in the Emirates Airline US Open Series. The US Open Men’s Singles Championship is presented by Mercedes-Benz USA.

Leading the entry list is world No. 1 Roger Federer, who returned to the top ranking following his title at Wimbledon this year. Federer surpassed Pete Sampras to set the record for the most weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings at 287 weeks. Federer is seeking his sixth US Open title, which would surpass Sampras and Jimmy Connors for most US Open men’s singles titles in the Open Era. In 2007, Federer became the only man to win the Emirates Airline US Open Series and US Open titles in the same year.

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic is the defending US Open champion after defeating Rafael Nadal in four sets in the final last year for his first US Open championship. Djokovic won the 2012 Australian Open and reached the final of the French Open. He held the No. 1 ranking from July 2011 up to Wimbledon this year—the first player other than Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to be ranked No. 1 on the ATP World Tour since Andy Roddick in 2003.

Following Federer and Djokovic on the entry list are No. 4 Andy Murray of Great Britain, the 2008 US Open runner-up; No. 5 David Ferrer of Spain, a 2007 US Open semifinalist; No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, the 2008 Australian Open runner-up; No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up; No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia, a 2011

US Open quarterfinalist; No. 9 Del Potro of Argentina, the 2009 US Open singles champion; and No. 10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain.

In all, there are six entrants who have won Grand Slam singles titles in their careers, including 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain.

Other American men who received direct entry into this year’s tournament include: No. 11 John Isner of Tampa, Fla.; No. 13 Mardy Fish of Los Angeles; No. 43 Ryan Harrison of Austin, Texas; No. 55 Sam Querrey of Las Vegas; No. 58 Donald Young of Atlanta; No. 79 Brian Baker of Nashville, Tenn.; No. 85 Jesse Levine of Boca Raton, Fla.; and No. 96 Michael

Russell of Houston.

Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil, ranked No. 101, is the last player accepted directly into the men’s field of 128. Additionally, three players used protected rankings to gain direct entry:

Somdev Devvarman of India; Paul-Henri Mathieu of France; and Tommy Robredo of Spain.

Sixteen more players will gain entry through the US Open Qualifying Tournament, August 21-

24, while the remaining eight spots are wild cards awarded by the USTA.

Among the players competing in the US Open Qualifying Tournament will be the winner of the third annual US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship presented by playtennis.com, held during the Emirates Airline US Open Series women’s event in New Haven, Conn., prior to the US Open Qualifying Tournament. The USTA created the US Open National Playoffs in 2010 to allow players 14-and-older, regardless of playing ability or nationality, to vie for a spot in the US Open Qualifying Tournament via one of 13 Sectional Qualifying Tournaments.

The July 16 edition of the ATP World Tour rankings was used to determine the US Open main draw entry list. Seeds will be determined and announced closer to the start of the event.

 

CityView Racquet Club is aces


| skarim@queenscourier.com

squash.lic.courierw

As the aces tear up the courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, you can practice your own swing – and so much more – at the CityView Racquet Club, a private, members-only facility.

Established in 2008, the Long Island City club, conveniently located just minutes away from Manhattan, offers squash and tennis programs for juniors and adults looking to develop their game.

“The owners of CityView Racquet Club recognized that the number of tennis facilities in NYC was diminishing with the increased value of real estate,” said Christina Lenahan, club director. “To ensure that our tennis courts would be protected, we found our home atop the iconic Swingline stapler building, catering to the tennis, squash and fitness needs of our local residents and neighbors.”

Aside from handling general inquiries, membership enrollment, events, marketing, and advertising, Lenahan also makes some time for squash.

“You’ll certainly see me taking advantage of our amazing squash courts,” she said.

The Racquet Club is known for its state-of-the-art fitness equipment, spa, and event space, which includes a bar/lounge and rooftop deck for custom parties, steam and sauna, ping pong, Wi-Fi, as well as complimentary valet.

“CityView has an exceptional teaching staff and has built a reputation as the premier tennis/squash club for adult and junior instruction in the New York City area,” said Lenahan. “We also provide tennis clinics and partner match-up services for both tennis and squash.”

As the club continues to grow, CityView continues to develop new programming opportunities for members – both new and old.

“We are looking forward to creating more of a stronghold here in Queens,” said Lenahan. “We are excited to be a part of this community and plan to grow along with Long Island City, and in the next few years, we foresee that CityView will be recognized by all Queens residents as providing various services from events to racquet sports.

CityView Racquet Club is located at 43-34 32nd Place. To learn more, call 718-389-6252, or visit www.cityviewracquet.com.

 

USTA Arthur Ashe Kids Day


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Arthur Ashe Kids Day

Thousands flooded the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the 2012 USTA Arthur Ashe Kids Day celebration on Saturday, August 25. Attendees enjoyed face painting, tennis demonstrations, magic shows and jugglers before watching a tennis show and concert inside the stadium.

To check out our photos from today’s event, click here.

How to get to the US Open


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

More than half of the fans have it figured out — and this year you can get on track to Go Green! With public transportation, you can skip the traffic and parking congestion, be environmentally friendly and spend more time watching world class tennis.

Mass Transit

Use mass transit to make your trip to the US Open convenient and cost-effective.

• Subway: The No. 7 train provides easy service from Grand Central Terminal to Mets-Willets Point Station, including connections for all Metro-North Trains from Westchester and Connecticut.

Service is also available from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

• Long Island Rail Road: LIRR provides easy service to Mets-Willets Point Station from Woodside, and convenient connections from Penn Station for New Jersey Transit customers.

• Schedules Online: The MTA website, mta.info, provides complete schedules and information about the most convenient ways to get to the US Open.

By Car

If your plans require that you drive, please follow these recommendations closely:

• Leave Ample Time: If you drive to the US Open, give yourself ample time to find parking and for traffic delays. Also, visit USOpen.org for the latest travel advisories.

• Follow Directions Closely: Due to new traffic patterns surrounding the Mets’ stadium and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, please follow the USTA’s driving directions closely. Directions are available on USOpen.org and on the back of pre-paid parking permits.

• Check back soon for possible parking restrictions due to Mets home games during the US Open.

DIRECTIONS

FROM MANHATTAN

Take the RFK Bridge (formerly Triborough) to the Grand Central Parkway East. Exit the Grand Central Parkway East at Exit 9E – I-678/RT-25A East/Northern Boulevard East. Stay to the left and follow to the Van Wyck Expressway South. Exit the Van Wyck Expressway South at Exit 12A – College Point Blvd. Follow signs to US Open Parking.

FROM BROOKLYN (OPTION #1)

Take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE/I-278) East to the Grand Central Parkway East. Exit the Grand Central Parkway East at Exit 9E – I-678/ RT -25A East/Northern Boulevard East. Take the RT-25A East/Northern Boulevard East exit ramp toward the Mets stadium. At the 1st traffic light off the exit ramp, make a right onto Shea Road. Follow signs to US Open Parking.

FROM BROOKLYN (OPTION #2)

Take the Jackie Robinson Parkway to the Van Wyck Expressway North. Exit the Van Wyck Expressway at Exit 12A. Continue straight on to College Point Blvd. Follow signs to US Open Parking.

FROM LONG ISLAND

Take the Long Island Expressway (LIE/I-495) West to Exit 22B – College Point Blvd. At first light, make a right on College Point Blvd. Follow signs to US Open Parking.

FROM CONNECTICUT/WESTCHESTER (OPTION #1)

Take I-95 to the Whitestone Bridge to the Whitestone Expressway South. Stay to the left and take the Van Wyck Expressway. Exit the Van Wyck Expressway South at Exit 12A – College Point Blvd. Follow signs to US Open Parking.

FROM CONNECTICUT/WESTCHESTER (OPTION #2)

Take I-95 to the Throgs Neck Bridge to I-295/Clearview Expressway South. Exit I-295/Clearview Expressway South at Exit 4 – Long Island Expressway (LIE/I-495) West. Take the Long Island Expressway (LIE/I-495) West to Exit 22B – College Point Blvd. At the first light, make a right on College Point Blvd. Follow signs to US Open Parking.

FROM NORTHERN NEW JERSEY (OPTION #1)

Take the George Washington Bridge to the Harlem River Drive, then to the RFK Bridge (formerly Triborough). Follow “FROM MANHATTAN” directions above.

FROM NORTHERN NEW JERSEY (OPTION #2)

Take the George Washington Bridge to the Cross Bronx Expressway, then to the Whitestone Bridge. Take the Whitestone Expressway South. Stay to the left and take the Van Wyck Expressway. Exit the Van Wyck Expressway South at Exit 12A – College Point Blvd. Follow signs to US Open Parking.

FROM SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY:

Take the Verrazzano Bridge to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (I-278) East to the Grand Central Parkway East. Follow “FROM BROOKLYN” directions above.

 

Tennis Center parking plans not met with Love


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Phil Hertling

Officials and advocates are currently volleying parking plans at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Designs for new structures to relieve parking problems at the center will not breach the area allocated to the U.S. Open rented from the city, a Tennis Association representative said. But park advocates say that any new, permanent construction is too much.

Some became vocal about the recently-announced plans to revamp the center — expected to begin next fall — arguing that adding parking spaces to the plan would infringe on the green space of the borough’s largest park, and convert public space into commercial.

Daniel Zausner, managing director of the Tennis Center, said plans to expand on parking would not affect any additional areas of the park; rather, parking structures are expected to be built on the center’s existing lots.

“We’re taking our existing parking lots in that perimeter and building up,” Zausner said. “The most critical thing is we’re not impacting the spot in a footprint perspective.”

The two lots the center currently has, Zausner said, accommodate a little more than 300 spots. With one lot getting a two-tiered structure, and the other a three-tiered, the center will be able to park about 800 cars total. That is still a stretch for the thousands of people the center sees a day when the U.S. Open takes place, Zausner said.

Green space supporters, however, said even building a structure was too much. Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, said the Tennis Center was still violating its rental agreement with the city.

“This isn’t a commercial area,” he said. “It’s public park and most certainly [parking garages] will encourage more cars to come in.”

Kim Ohanian, third vice chair of Community Board 7 and head of the board’s Parks Committee, said bringing more cars in would also have an environmental effect on the park.

Ohanian added that the Tennis Center needed to promote taking mass transit as opposed to driving when attending the U.S. Open.

The center had some 600 spots allocated at what is now World Ice Arena, but lost the site when ground broke on the project more than 10 years ago. Since then, the city did not compensate for parking, aside from city parking in Shea Stadium’s parking lot. When Citi Field was completed, however, the Mets took full control of the parking, Zausner said.

Tennis Ace: Cardozo freshman wins the Girls’ Singles Individuals Tournament


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Sabrina Xiong

Neal Baskin has been coaching for more than 40 years, and he knows talent.

So when Howie Arons, boys’ tennis coach for Benjamin Cardozo High School, told him there could be a prodigy coming to join the girl’s team last year, Basking said he would have to see her for himself.

“I respected Howie’s judgment, but until I see a player I can’t make my judgment,” Baskin said.

Baskin was convinced that the Lady Judges had found a special player after he met Sabrina Xiong and watched her try out for the team.

“I’m always looking for a ‘blue chip’ athlete to come in and that’s what she is,” Baskin said of his star player.

Xiong, 14, slipped into the lead singles role at Cardozo and took PSAL Division A girls’ tennis by storm, going undefeated in the regular season, 7-0, leading Cardozo to finish second in the league. She even breezed past upperclassmen to win the Girls’ Singles Individuals Tournament.

“Winning anything feels great,” Xiong said. “But it was good, especially since I was a freshman, and it was the first time I played on a school team. It was really nice having people support me.”

Baskin admitted the scary thing about the young girl from Fresh Meadows is the that fact that she is a freshman.

No PSAL player has won the singles title four years in row, but Xiong has set herself up to become the first.

“I’ll try my hardest,” Xiong said.

As Arons once pointed out, Xiong had long been big news on the city’s tennis radar before she entered Cardozo.

After her mom signed her up to take tennis lessons at the Billy Jean National Tennis Center when she was eight years old, Xiong just took off.

“At that time I thought maybe she needed to play some kind of sport,” said Jennifer Wang, Xiong’s mother. “But the coaches over there just kept putting her in the next level, and next level and next level.”

In 2010, when U.S. tennis legend John McEnroe opened up his tennis academy on Randall’s Island to foster young talented players, Xiong had developed a burning passion for the sport and went to try out for the program.

Approximately 175 aspiring players were judged on everything from swings, volleys and serves, to physical speed, strength and technical skills.

The field was shortened to about 25, and then six, who were personally evaluated by McEnroe himself.

Xiong aced the evaluation after playing with McEnroe, and earned a full scholarship.

Since then she has trained at the academy, practicing for nearly seven hours a day in the summer. During the school year she travels to the facility on Randall’s Island from 6 to 8 p.m., after completing homework.

“It’s a really good experience,” Xiong said. “It’s really intense and it keeps me motivated. Very few people get the chance to go to the academy and meet John [McEnroe]. And I get to hit with him sometimes.”

On some weekends she competes in United States Tennis Association (USTA) tournaments for her age group.

With the current No. 3 ranking in the USTA Eastern 14 and under division, she will compete in a Super National tournament in Florida this weekend.

Her success in a sport in which stars usually make their pro debut at an early age leaves many to wonder whether Xiong will be aiming to enter the professional field early.

However, right now she’s not thinking about it at all.

“I’ll wait a little a bit longer,” Xiong said. “I have to train more for that. I think education is my first priority. Getting into a really good college and playing there would be great, because I just want the experience of playing on a [college] team.”

 

Ballperson here I come!


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Picture 130w

I just wanted to prove I could still play ball.

Although I’m a reporter — and four years removed from competitive sports, since the last time I played baseball was in high school — an opportunity to participate in the U.S. Open media ballperson tryouts on June 21 meant a chance to show I’m still athletic.

While watching the U.S. Open every year I inevitably notice the ballpersons scurrying around the court like squirrels, fielding balls as discreetly as possible and returning them to the players.

I thought this should be simple enough for me, who has played sports all his life.

Brimming with confidence, I listened to Tina Taps, U.S. Open Ballperson director, give the instructions on how to correctly field the ball to the group of media personnel gathered at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

She said to sprint to the loose balls, and sprint back to the closest side. Then throw the ball with high arches to clear players and make sure it bounces once to ballperson team members.

It was supposed to be easy for me, but for some reason that feeling of anxiety that scares Little Leaguers from making the right play at crunch time came over me when it was my turn. And surely enough, I screwed up from the get-go.

“Sprint,” yelled my evaluator, Cathie Delaney. I was running too slowly.

“That ball was a little off target,” she said. My throw was too wide.

Maybe once or twice I considered it would be cool to be a ballperson in the past, but I never seriously wanted to try out, because it seemed too simple.

But here I was looking dreadful. Before my turn came to try out I remember watching the other reporters from companies like ESPN and Newsday, dressed in athletic gear, and I wanted to look better than them.

My pride was on the line, so I picked up the pace.

I began full-out sprinting to my spots and gunning the bright, green balls as if someone was stealing second, while still keeping the bounce.

After my turn ended and I approached Delaney, out of breath from just 10 minutes of running and throwing.

I asked how my tryout was and she replied, “You could do it,” Delaney said “But you aren’t actually available, are you?”

Just the thought that I would be accepted was good for me, but to make it even better I was complimented.

“You looked good out there,” said a female Newsday reporter as I walked away from the courts.

My pride was intact, but not my colleague’s.

Terence Cullen, my fellow reporter, beaned another participant in the head, knocking his hat clear off.

There’s always next year, Terence.

 

Hundreds try out to be U.S. Open Ballperson


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Terence Cullen

Some had never been on a tennis courts, others had only seen a video of what they were about to do. They came from either end of the Island — hundreds of them — for only about 80 spots. They sprinted after dribbled balls, with the pressure of knowing the entire world could potentially watch them do this.

Almost 500 people of all ages came to the U.S. National Tennis Center on Thursday, June 21 to see if they had what it takes to be an official U.S. Tennis Ballperson. The try-outs came in the midst of the summer’s first heat wave, but officials said it gave a glimpse at what late August — when the U.S. Open takes place — would feel like.

Luca Bozzo, from Park Slope, came with his parents to not only seek a summer job, but for the unique experience.

“It would be really cool to be part of the U.S. Open” he said. “To get to see the players up close, that would be a tremendous thing.”

Luca, 15, said he wasn’t much of a tennis player, but enjoyed watching it on TV — listing superstar Roger Federer as one of his favorites.

The program, which employs about 80-90 people ages 14 and up, is an experience that lasts in the memories of those who take part, said Tina Taps, director of the U.S. Open Ballpersons.

The veterans who have taken part for several years cannot wait for the National Championship to start, Taps said, and compare its start to a countdown for school to end.

“They can’t wait to do it again,” she said, “and what’s wonderful about that is they mentor the younger kids.”

Taps said she was not concerned about the weather — trainers were on call and water coolers had been set up around the center — and instead thought it would give the potential ballpeople a glimpse of what the actual open weather would be like.

“The heat is a good thing because this is what it’s like during the tournament,” she said “So if they can handle it today, they’ll know what they’re up against in terms of heat.”

Jacob Uihlein came all the way from Centerport, Long Island to try out for a spot. Uihlein, 37, said his friend, who works at the Open every year, recommended the night before that he try out.

“I never really knew there were try outs,” he said.

An lover of the outdoors, Uihlein said he wasn’t too concerned about the near-100 degree weather affecting his abilities.

“I should’ve put on some sunblock,” he mused, as beads of sweat dripped from his chin.

 

Expansions for the US Open expected to draw more crowds, funds


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Tennis Centerw

Prospective development at the home of the US Open could mean an ace for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Queens.

Members of the USTA and borough officials served up information about the upcoming plans, set to begin in the fall of 2013, at a meeting on Thursday, June 14 at the Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The multi-year, multi-million dollar makeover will include amending the infrastructure, upgrading buildings and improving site circulation, creating what the USTA executives believe will be an improved experience for players and fans alike.

“Our goal remains to ensure that the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center remains a world-class facility for the top professional tennis players, for the hundreds of thousands of fans who annually attend the US Open, and, as importantly the near hundred thousand recreational tennis players who use this facility all year round,” said Jon Vegosen, president of the USTA.

According to the USTA, the US Open generates more than $756 million a year in economic activity, draws a crowd of 700,000 and reaches a global audience of 85 million viewers in 188 countries.

“The city recognizes the crucial need to improve the USTA facility and supports this vision, so that the center remains a top-ranked tennis venue capable of hosting the US Open and thereby allowing the tournament to remain in New York City for many decades,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The project will forge two new stadiums – one replacing Louis Armstrong Stadium, which will remain in its current location, and a brand new Grandstand Stadium, constructed in a different spot at the southwest corner of the site. Both stadiums were originally built during the 1964-65 World’s Fair. The Louis Armstrong Stadium, constructed for the fair as a Singer Bowl, is a 125,000 gross-square-feet facility with approximately 10,000 seats. The stadium to be erected in its place will have the ability to seat 15,000 guests and include concession, retail, broadcasting and administrative spaces. The Grandstand Stadium, also created as a Singer Bowl for the World’s Fair, will be demolished and rebuilt to seat 8,000 fans.

Amenities at the newly renovated facilities will include seven additional courts, two parking garages and an elevated viewing platform. Combined, the improvements are expected to acquire an additional 10,000 people per day during the tournament.

According to the USTA, the US Open creates 6,000 seasonal jobs – 85 percent of employees hail from New York City and 41 percent from Queens.

“For generations, the Borough of Queens has played host to the US Open, a world class sporting event and a major economic catalyst for our city,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “I look forward to working with the USTA to ensure that the new additions to the NTC bring the maximum benefit to the people of the borough of Queens.”

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Long Island City library installs snack and soda vending machines

A cash-strapped Queens library has found an unusual way to raise revenue: selling soda, chips and candy. The Queens Library recently installed two vending machines stocked with unhealthy snacks near the entrance of its Long Island City branch. Read more: [New York Daily News]

Cops collar man accused of killing ex-wife and going over to bodega for beer and Band-Aids

 

The man wanted for killing his ex-wife in Queens before strolling to a nearby bodega to buy a Coors Light and Band-Aids was arrested Thursday, police and witnesses said. Maximiliano Lozada, 34, of Elmhurst, pummeled Luz Paulino, 33, and stabbed her repeatedly around 10:50 p.m. Monday, police said. Read more: [New York Daily News]

National Tennis Center In Queens To Raise Money For Major Overhaul

The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators to the U.S. Open each year, and the people behind the center say they will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep it at the top of its game. Read more: [NY1]

School Prohibits Fifth-Grader From Giving Speech On Same-Sex Marriage

Kameron Slade worked on his speech with his mother and his teacher after winning a class competition. He was slated to deliver it in a school-wide contest at PS 195. That’s no longer going to happen. His mother, who doesn’t want to be identified, said the principal told her the topic is inappropriate. Read more: [NY1]

11 yrs. in fatal baby shake

A Queens baby sitter accused of shaking a crying 3-month-old boy so hard during the blizzard of December 2010 that he died a week later copped a plea yesterday. Read more: [New York Post]