“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of the kids to get to go and actually be out on the court, and then they actually get to stick around for the entire day afterward,” said Five Star Owner and Co-Director of Tennis Robin Henders.
Five Star tennis takes on the “Big Apple”
It’s not every day you get to watch some of the world’s greatest tennis players compete in person, let alone get a chance to play on the same court as the pros. Junior development players at Five Star Tennis, a tennis center located in Plainfield, Illinois, had the opportunity to take 24 kids and their families to the U.S. Open in Flushing, New York, to perform youth exhibitions between matches during the tournament held earlier this month.
Tennis continues to grow in popularity in the U.S. According to the United States Tennis Association, there are 23.6 million tennis players, more than the number of people playing pickleball, racquetball, and badminton combined. Top American players such as 2023 U.S. Open Women’s Champion Coco Gauff, Taylor Fritz, Francis Tiafoe, and Ben Shelton are another influence for the increase in youth participation.
Youth tennis players get V.I.P. experience at the U.S. Open
The Five Star players were able to meet their idols for pictures and autographs. Their time in the Big Apple included Andreea Palamadea finding herself at the center of attention as she was able to conduct the ceremonial coin toss before one of the matches.
“I was very surprised and very nervous to do all that because I’m going to be on T.V.,” said Andreea Palamadea.
This is the third time that Five Star Tennis has been invited to participate in exhibitions at the legendary Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open. For young Five Star Tennis players Mason Mahor, Andreea Palamadea, and Griffin Finke, the trip to New York was an experience to remember.
“When my dad told me I was happy because I get to go to the U.S. Open for the first time, I was excited because I get to see, like many professional players,” said Mason Mahor.
“I really want to go back because it was so fun because we got to go to Times Square, we got to the M&M store, we got to go everywhere,” said Griffin Finke.
Tennis’ participation rising amongst youth
New York City has plenty of sites and attractions. Yet the US Open was the hottest ticket in town, according to the US Open website, more than 950,000 spectators attended the grand slam over the three-week period.
Former player and Five Star Tennis owner Robin Henders, was also able to take his family for the lifetime experience as his two young daughters now play the sport.
“My younger daughter is really kind of just getting started in the sport, and so to see her standing up and cheering for the players and she now knows some of the player’s names and everything, it was awesome. I think she has a new appreciation for the sport now after seeing the professional side of it,” said Henders.
Without a doubt, there was something for everyone to enjoy at the U.S. Open. And just like the experience was something that will last a lifetime, the game of tennis itself is something these young competitors hope to play for the rest of their lives.
“Any person of any age can play tennis like it doesn’t matter if you’re like four years old. It doesn’t matter if you’re 70 or 60 years old. You can play at any age,” said Griffin Finke.
For NCTV17, I’m Marcel X. Francis
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