Guide To USTA League Tennis

It’s “Championship Season” in the world of U.S. Tennis Association League Tennis as its championships are determined throughout the fall season. Tony Serksnis has been playing USTA League Tennis for over 25 years and authored the book “A PLAYER’S GUIDE TO USTA LEAGUE TENNIS” available here about the ins and outs of playing on a club, town, school or league tennis team. The following is Serksnis’s introduction to the book, available exclusively to Tennis Ledger readers.

 

I hve been playing tennis in the United States Tennis Association’s League Tennis program since I moved to Mountain View, California in 1985. However, my tennis “roots” are from playing summers as a teen in Cleveland, Ohio. I wish I still had my original wooden Wilson racquet, which had one of those “racquet anti-warp” guards. It was one where you were always tightening and un-tightening the screws to make sure your racquet didn’t get a twisted head due to humidity in those regions of the Midwest. I can also recall using a single (white!) tennis ball for an entire summer. We didn’t have money to be “extravagant” with such things as tennis balls.

Upon arriving in Mountain View, I could see many public court parks that looked inviting to play at. Mountain View also had a tennis club that was mainly social at the time. After joining that club (dues were only $20 per year), I was quick to make friends with the other club members and participated in ladders and club tournaments. It wasn’t long before I noticed that there was some sort of “league play” which turned out to be the USTA League Tennis program and the club sponsored teams at a few levels.

Back in those days, we were given National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) ratings individually by USTA officials. One would gather with several other individuals in search of their “correct” rating, play perhaps 15 minutes, and your rating was established. I started with an NTRP rating of 3.5. I did fairly well, and in two years, I got bumped up to 4.0. I stayed at that level for 23 years (yes, 23 years!) until 2009, when I was moved to a 4.5 rating at the age of 63. That is something I am very proud of. Today, NTRP ratings occur without “external verification” in that one self-rates against published guidelines. After playing a few matches, and definitely after an entire season of competitive play, one gets a computer rating based upon one’s record and “strength-of-opponent.”

League tennis has then been a serious part of my life. I used to run marathons, with tennis being a healthy “alternative” exercise, but now (due to knees being pounded by over 20 marathons) tennis is my main exercise and hobby. I hope to continue league play for as long as my body holds up and league play still remains fun. Since league play is based on playing people with similar abilities, even if one’s level decreases over the years, one can continue to compete at possibly lower levels. Players can have any skill level before their very first rating. As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t played much tennis at all before getting an official rating and starting league play. Others may have been on high school teams or even played in college. Thus, USTA League Tennis provides for the entire range of beginning skill levels.

My viewpoint is from a player who plays in sunny California, where we are indeed fortunate to experience very tennis-friendly weather for most of the year. Here, the rainy season lasts for a short period at the beginning of the calendar year. This could lead to a rather narrow view of the entire USTA . One thing is for certain – the competition level doesn’t diminish beyond the Northern California region. Every USTA team steps out on to the court with the hopes of both winning and having an enjoyable experience.

In those 20-plus years of playing USTA League Tennis, I’ve served as team member, captain, and co-captain. In my first season, our team was fortunate enough to actually win our league and qualify for our local district championship and then went on to qualify for the USTA Northern California Sectional Championships. However, we were denied in our attempt to qualify for the USTA League Tennis National Championships. I’ve decided to position this book from the captain’s perspective. The captain certainly must function as an organizer, leader and motivational coach to the rest of the team. All of that for no overt compensation other than knowing that this was the best one could do. Most of the time, the captain is also a player, so while also trying to lead the team, the captain is also trying to improve their own game as player. The captain could be looked upon as the CEO & CFO of the team.

My first thought was to write (and title) the book from a “captain’s viewpoint” but I believe that all players of the USTA will find the book of value and thus, this is a “Players Guide.” I believe that if all players who are members of a USTA team look at the team from the perspective of the captain, the team will be richer for that perspective.

The United States Tennis Association defines its League Tennis program as follows; “USTA League Tennis is organized, competitive team play for women and men age 18 and older of all abilities and experience. Whether you’re new to the game or a former college player, there’s a spot for you. Teams are made up of a minimum of five to eight players depending upon division. Teams and matches are set up according to NTRP ratings, so your teammates and opponents will be at your skill level. The competition is exciting, the atmosphere is social, and since players compete on teams, you have a built-in cheering section. Teams compete in four national divisions: Adult, Senior, Super Senior, and Mixed Doubles. The format features singles and doubles matches for adult leagues, and three doubles for seniors, super seniors, and mixed leagues.”

I would add that USTA League Tennis is a way for people, who have just taken up the game of tennis, to play the sport in a competitive format. The USTA sets up this competitive format at various levels of skill, so that a person just needs to join and participate on a team to enjoy the competition. Playing against people of similar skill, who also are trying to win for their teams, will certainly improve one’s own personal skills. It is a major charter of USTA League Tennis to permit tennis players to work on improving their personal tennis skills through a competitive (yet fun) environment. Any level of player is given the chance to compete against like-skilled players in a team environment.

USTA League Tennis is an organized way to compete at your own particular level. Thus, one just needs to join a team and the USTA will set up leagues within a local geographical area where the team can win local leagues and progress all the way to a national championship. There are few other sports that allow competition to continue beyond winning their local and regional championships and lead to a recognized national championship. If a tennis-playing person moves from one “region” (or state) to another, USTA League Tennis provides an organized and consistent method to participate in a league that has uniform rules across the USA. As the USTA has 17 geographical regions within the USA, a player can expect a consistent set of league-playing rules and skill-level consistency throughout the entire league.

USTA League Tennis is fun. It’s a low-expense hobby with a decent chance of improving one’s fitness through competitive play. There is a social aspect to it in that one can pull for one’s teammates and acquire a healthy respect for the skill of the opposition. Also, the USTA rules as stated in this book could be slightly different for your particular USTA Section, or may change slightly from year to year. The team captain should actually review the USTA rules for their USTA Section each year and print those rules out to keep with them. When issues arise during a match, the rules can be quoted to help resolve that issue. The USTA general rules are meant to cover all players in the USTA , but some different “interpretations” are offered by each USTA Section.

Each player of the game of tennis should be familiar with all of the basic rules so that they can contribute towards issue resolution. I’ve found that tennis players (with rare exception) are not prone to arguments even under extreme “important match considerations.” If every USTA League Tennis match being played under a USTA sanction resulted in a negative aftermath, I’m sure the league wouldn’t be growing in members as it has. Tennis remains a game that is largely self-umpired, and 99 percent of the players “get it right” and thus the game continues to be an overall enjoyable experience.

The USTA ’s national website is www.usta.com. I’m sure all USTA players are already familiar with the site. It is certainly full of the most up-to-date information of a more general nature. In addition, each USTA Section has its own website. For example, for the Northern California (Norcal) Section, it is www.norcal.usta.com. That site would have the most information on the local league schedules, rule interpretations, and events in one’s local area. The rules, of course, must be consistent across the USTA , but I would check one’s local USTA Section’s website as they clarify certain rules for their area. I’d also like to encourage any reader of this book to consult these rules directly as I may have inadvertently put an incorrect interpretation on the particular rule for a USTA Section.

There are over 300,000 league participants throughout the USTA ’s 17 Sections, and I salute them all. I hope you enjoy my book and take something away from this that can help you and your team. Best of luck!

Tony Serksnis

Mountain View, Calif.

Annacone

Excerpt from Roger Federer: Back On Top due out Oct. 31,2012.

Roger Federer went through a few coaches for a bunch of different reasons, before locating Paul Annacone, including Peter Carter, Darren Cahill, Jose Higueras and Tony Roche.

But perhaps it was out of necessity – or a bit of desperation – that Federer and Annacone attempted a relationship.

Of course, people might define “desperation” differently. At the time Annacone was hired in a “test period,” as Federer said, Federer had won Wimbledon six times, the US Open five times, the French Open once and four Australian titles.

But in 2010, he lost at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals to Tomas Berdych and to Robin Soderling in the French quarters, dropping Federer to – gasp – No. 3 in the world. It was his lowest ranking in seven years.

And so on came Annacone, 47 at the time as Annacone worked out the remainder of his contract as men’s head coach at the Lawn Tennis Association in Great Britain.

Annacone was no stranger to coaching. He was the former coach to Pete Sampras and British great, Tim Henman. In the days that followed Annacone’s hiring, let’s just say Annacone seemed more excited about the opportunity.

“I’ve been looking to add someone to my team and I’ve decided to spend some days with Paul Annacone,” Federer told his website.

Annacone, meanwhile, told the New York Times, “Sometimes, I wake up and go ‘Wow’, and I do feel kind of blessed to have had this opportunity. But I think part of my good fortune, I hope, is because of my work ethic and personality and the perspective that I view the game with and the history I have soaked up as a bit of a sponge in the last 25 years.”

Annacone was ranked as high as No. 12 in the world during his playing days and was subsequently put in charge of player development for both the United States Tennis Association and the British Lawn Tennis Association. Big jobs.

Yet Annacone’s hiring on the Federer team was historic. It made him the deli meat in the sandwich of two of the most significant eras of tennis in the history of the game. He got to work with Sampras and Federer, after all, who won Grand Slam events like the Yankees win the World Series.

Annacone was a net-rushing player before a herniated disk in his back cut short his career. One of the characteristics in both Sampras‘ game and Henman‘s game was the ability to move forward, thereby giving him an appeal to Federer at the time. Clearly, Federer wanted to end points sooner as he pushed past 30. That was never more evident than at Wimbledon this year and especially in the final against Murray.

“It’s important to question yourself, and that’s what I’ve always been doing since I got to world No. 1 in 2004,” Federer said after losing in the French Open in 2010.

It was nothing new to Annacone to prove himself. He took over as Sampras’s coach on an interim basis in March 1995, when Sampras’ coach Tim Gullickson became ill. Sampras was already No. 1, but with Annacone’s support won eight more Grand Slam titles.

Annacone told the author that Federer and Sampras have more in common than not. He called both, “immense talents and objective evaluators of winning and losing.”

So far, so good for the relationship.

Will Annacone be his most influential coach? Maybe. He will have to go far to outdo Carter, originally from Australia. Carter coached Federer in his formative tenn years and worked with him on his serve volley and slice. He also served as Swiss Davis Cup coach before dying much too young in 2002 at 37 in a car crash. his loss had an enormous impact on Federer.

Samantha Crawford Wins Girls Junior Championship

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 9, 2012 – The United States Tennis Association (USTA) today announced that American Samantha Crawford of Atlanta, Ga., captured the 2012 US Open Girls’ Junior Championship with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 12 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sunday. Crawford, who currently trains at the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., is the second consecutive American to win the US Open Junior Girls’ title, and the third in the past five years.

“We are extremely proud of Sam and the total team effort of her family, coach Kathy Rinaldi and the entire USTA Player Development team Boca Raton,” said USTA General Manager, Player Development Patrick McEnroe.

Crawford follows Grace Min, in 2011, and CoCo Vandeweghe, in 2008, as Americans to win US Open Junior titles in the last five years. Crawford’s victory also completes an American sweep of the 2012 US Open Junior Girls’ titles after Taylor Townsend, of Jonesboro, Ga., and Gabrielle Andrews, of Pomona, Calif., won the doubles championship on Saturday.

Crawford, a 17-year-old wild card in the 2012 US Open Junior Championship, defeated five of the Top 12 seeds to win her first major girls’ singles title and cap an impressive summer. Crawford, as a wild card, qualified for the US Open singles main draw and took Great Britain’s Laura Robson to a second-set tiebreak in the first round. She also played in the US Open women’s doubles and mixed doubles main draws, earning a wild card entry into the former after winning the USTA Girls’ 18s Nationals doubles title with partner Allie Kiick, of Plantation, Fla.

Crawford was playing in just her fifth ITF world junior circuit event of the year. Prior to the US Open, she played in two USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 events in 2012, reaching the final in Yakima, Wash., and the semifinal in Sacramento.

David Wagner Wins Silver Medal In London

David Wagner win 2012 Silver Medal in Singles in the Paralympic Games in London

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 8, 2012 – The United States Tennis Association (USTA) today announced that American David Wagner won the silver medal in Quad singles competition at the 2012 Paralympics in London, as he was defeated 6-3, 6-2 by Noam Gershony of Israel in the gold medal match. This marks Wagner’s second silver medal in the Quad Singles Division at the Paralympic Games since making his debut at the 2004 Games in Athens. With the win, Wagner will be taking home his second medal of the London Games. On Thursday, he and Quad Doubles partner Nick Taylor captured their third consecutive gold medal.

As a three-time Paralympian, Wagner now has a total of six medals throughout his Paralympic career. At the 2008 Games in Beijing, he captured gold and bronze in doubles and singles respectively. At the 2004 Games in Athens, he won gold in doubles and silver in singles. He has competed in the Quad division of the Paralympic Games since it was first introduced in the 2004 Games.

Wagner is a ten-time Grand Slam champion. At the US Open, he captured two titles in singles (2010, 2011) and four in doubles with Taylor (2007, 2009-2011). Last year he captured the singles title at the Australian Open. Prior to that, he and Taylor won three Australian Open doubles titles (2008-2010).

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The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. and the leader in promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level — from local communities to the highest level of the professional game. A not-for-profit organization with more than 785,000 members, it invests 100% of its proceeds in growing the game. It owns and operates the US Open, the highest attended annual sporting event in the world, and launched the Emirates Airline US Open Series linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open. In addition, it owns approximately 90 Pro Circuit events throughout the U.S, and selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Olympic and Paralympic Games. The USTA philanthropic entity, USTA Serves, provides grants and scholarships and helps underserved youth and people with disabilities. For more information on the USTA, log on to usta.com, “like” the official Facebook page facebook.com/usta or follow @usta on Twitter.

US Open and Levy Restaurants Donate 21,000 Pounds of Food to City Harvest

New York, NY – Sept. 14, 2010 — The United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Levy Restaurants, the official restaurateur of the US Open, teamed up to donate more than 21,000 pounds of unused food to City Harvest following the 2010 US Open.

City Harvest, the world’s first food rescue organization, is dedicated to feeding New York City’s hungry men, women, and children. In the week following the US Open, City Harvest delivered rescued food to soup kitchens and food pantries across the five boroughs.

“The USTA is focused on being a responsible member of the greater New York City community,” said Danny Zausner, Managing Director, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  “This commitment includes reducing the environmental footprint of the US Open and providing for others in need.  Donating unused food from the US Open, in coordination with our partner, Levy Restaurants, is a great way to help City Harvest feed our neighbors in the five boroughs.”

“We are very thankful to the USTA and Levy Restaurants and for this generous donation,” said Jilly Stephens, Executive Director at City Harvest.  “Our long-standing partnership with the US Open demonstrates their commitment to helping us feed hungry New Yorkers,” she added.

Led by Executive Chef Michael Lockard, Levy Restaurants utilized a 250-person culinary team to serve the crowd of more than 700,000 at the US Open Aug. 30 – Sept. 12. Fans had dining options at five restaurants, 60 concession stands and 100 suites on the grounds. Creating a more eco-friendly sports experience, the USTA and Levy Restaurants introduced many new green initiatives this year, including composting of kitchen waste and sourcing of more than 10 percent of all produce from local and regional farms.

Donated food items included: bread, grains, fresh and frozen produce, seafood, dairy, juices and more. Four truckloads of food were picked up by City Harvest in the days following the US Open’s conclusion. The Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica, Queens received lettuce, celery, yogurt, bread, and milk; Five Loaves and Two Fishes in Brooklyn received hamburgers, rolls, salads, peppers, cucumbers and cheeses; Community Food Pantry of Highbridge in the Bronx received a variety of dairy products including cream, milk, and cheese, frozen vegetables, fresh produce and herbs. Additional locations receiving donations included the Hope Line Resource Center in the Bronx and Child Development Support Corporation in Brooklyn.

City Harvest has collected food donations from the US Open for more than 10 years and from Levy Restaurants for the last three years.  City Harvest has collected more than 270,000 pounds of food from the US Open since 1998.

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About USTA

The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. and the leader in promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level — from local communities to the highest level of the professional game.  A not-for-profit organization with nearly 750,000 members, it invests 100% of its proceeds in growing the game.  It owns and operates the US Open, and launched the Olympus US Open Series linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open.  In addition, it owns the 90-plus Pro Circuit events throughout the U.S., is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis, and selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Olympic and Paralympic Games.  USTA Serves, the National Charitable Foundation of the USTA, provides financial support for disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities through tennis and education programs.  For more information on the USTA, log on to usta.com.

About City Harvest

Now serving New York City for more than 25 years, City Harvest (www.CityHarvest.org) is the world’s first food rescue organization, dedicated to feeding the city’s hungry men, women, and children. This year, City Harvest will collect more than 25 million pounds of excess food from all segments of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms. This food is then delivered free of charge to nearly 600 community food programs using a fleet of trucks and bikes as well as volunteers on foot. Each week, City Harvest helps over 260,000 hungry New Yorkers find their next meal.

About Levy Restaurants

Levy Restaurants, founded in Chicago in 1978, is recognized as one of America’s fastest growing and most critically acclaimed restaurant companies, and is the leader in premium sports and entertainment dining concessions. Levy was recently named one of the 10 most innovative companies in sports in the world by Fast Company magazine. The company’s diverse portfolio includes award-winning restaurants such as James Beard-winning Spiaggia and Bistro 110 in Chicago, Fulton’s Crab House, Portobello and Wolfgang Puck Grand Café at Walt Disney World Resort, renowned sports and entertainment venues like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, and American Airlines Arena in Miami, and events including the Super Bowl, World Series, Kentucky Derby, NHL and NBA All-Star Games and the Grammy Awards. For details, visit www.levyrestaurants.com.

Community Services Premiere Monday on the Tennis Channel

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 10, 2010 – Tennis Channel, the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle, chronicles the renovation of Centennial Tennis Center in Nashville, Tenn., on its new program, Community Surface, which premieres Monday, Sept. 13, at 7:30 p.m. ET – the day after the 2010 US Open.

The half-hour Community Surface built by SportMaster takes viewers behind the scenes as Tennis Channel, court-resurfacing company and presenting sponsor SportMaster, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA), renovate the public tennis facility that was badly damaged in Nashville’s May floods.  During the national headline-grabbing storms, 36 inches of rain destroyed many of the 19 courts at Centennial Tennis Center which, due to insufficient repair funds, had left them unplayable and closed this summer.  Following a week of repairs in August, members of the Nashville tennis community were able to enjoy these courts again for the first time since the spring catastrophe.

“By showcasing how the makeover of just one public center can rejuvenate an entire tennis community, we hope Tennis Channel can inspire others to work together to improve their local facilities or help with other tennis needs,” said Laura Hockridge, vice president, original programming, Tennis Channel.  “Three-fourths of our viewers also play tennis recreationally, and this program is a natural reflection of the grass-roots connections that exist all over our country.”

Hosted by writer and television personality Touré, who also hosts Fuse TV’s Hiphop Show and On the Record, the program was taped in Nashville August 10-18.  Centennial Tennis Center’s courts were sealed off with privacy screens during the renovation, with the grand revelation on August 18.

Upon its completion the Centennial Tennis Center now features eight new 36′ kids tennis courts in addition to the 13 existing regulation 78′ courts.  The USTA’s QuickStart play format will be taught on the kids tennis courts.  The QuickStart play format is designed to bring kids into the game with specialized equipment, shorter court dimensions and modified scoring, all tailored to age and size.  Beyond the youth-oriented program, each year the USTA helps numerous communities repair and maintain their tennis facilities through public grants.

“The USTA is proud to be partnering with SportMaster and Tennis Channel to make this happen,” said Kurt Kamperman, chief executive, community tennis, USTA.  “To be able to return these courts back to playing condition allows us to continue our mission of growing the game at all age levels, especially to kids ten and under.”

“The floods caused so much damage throughout the area that we had no idea how we were ever going to get these courts back into playing condition,” said Blain Smith, manager, Centennial Tennis Center.  “We can’t thank Tennis Channel, SportMaster and the USTA enough for helping our tennis community back and hopefully inspiring others to take up the game.”

Tennis Channel (www.tennischannel.com) is the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle.  A hybrid of comprehensive sports, health, fitness, pop culture, entertainment, lifestyle and travel programming, the network is home to every aspect of the wide-ranging, worldwide tennis community.  It also has the most concentrated single-sport coverage in television, with telecast rights to the US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros (French Open), Australian Open, Olympus US Open Series, ATP Masters Series, top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions, Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, and Hyundai Hopman Cup.  Tennis Channel is carried by eight of the top 10 MSOs and has a national footprint via DIRECTV and DISH Network.

Carroll: Very little U.S. at U.S. Open

It has not been a secret that Americans have not been dominating the world of professional tennis since the days when Andre Agassi would routinely battle Pete Sampras in the finals of Grand Slam events.
American futility on the men’s side was clearly in evidence at the U.S. Open as the fading Andy Roddick and the perpetually mediocre Taylor Dent, Donald Young and Robby Ginepri were all eliminated before Labor Day weekend. James Blake managed to survive until Saturday when Novak Djokovic disposed of him with ease in straight sets.

Things were not brighter for the red, white and blue on the women’s side as Venus Williams was the only American left at the tournament’s halfway point, though it’s safe to say that her sister, Serena, would have been there as well had she not hurt her right foot and missed the tourney. Melanie Oudin, the teenager from Atlanta who went deep into the Open last year, was gone by the second round. This year’s Cinderella story, Maryland’s Beatrice Capra, was slaughtered 6-0, 6-0 by Maria Sharapova in a third round match.

A United States Tennis Association executive looked as if she was about to cry in the press room when 18-year-old Louisiana native Ryan Harrison lost a grueling five-set match that required a tiebreaker to Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. Harrison blew three match point opportunities in the tiebreaker. If he were a more seasoned player, the media would have called it a “choke,” but since he is young, and was quite mature in his post-loss press conference, everyone was charitable.

James Blake is a huge Mets fan, and he frequently wears a Mets baseball cap into Interview Room 1 at Arthur Ashe Stadium. He became far more passionate about the Mets’ woes than about his tennis game when he was asked what the team needs to do next year. “I believe that they need to make changes at the top,” he said, referring to Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon, General Manager Omar Minaya and Manager Jerry Manuel.

Blake chatted with me briefly after the formal press conference. “They need to blow the whole team up and start over,” he added emphatically, meaning that he would not be averse to seeing such core players as Jose Reyes and David Wright traded. When I mentioned that it would highly unlikely Jeff Wilpon would leave anytime soon since he’s the son of team owner Fred Wilpon, Blake replied somewhat forlornly, “I know.”

Pete Sampras Named Tennis Night in America Spokesman for 2011

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Pete Sampras, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, will serve as the first spokesman for “Tennis Night In America,” a joint promotional effort between the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and StarGames, Inc.

“Tennis Night in America,” the annual celebration of tennis that includes youth registration events at facilities around the country and concludes with the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden, will take place February 28, 2011.

“I am honored to be the first spokesperson for ‘Tennis Night in America’,” Sampras said. “Tennis was a great sport for me when I was young and having tennis facilities around the country come together to promote the game and the BNP Paribas Showdown makes for a great celebration for tennis.

“Last year Tennis Night had over 700 tennis facilities involved.  I would like to see that reach 1,000 in 2011.”

“Tennis Night in America” showcases tennis at local facilities around the country. In 2010, more than 700 tennis clubs and recreation centers hosted open houses, clinics and parties. Along with the festivities was the USTA’s Youth Registration Night, the organization’s largest youth tennis recruitment effort.

“Tennis Night in America is a great platform to raise awareness of our sport, and now with the help of one of tennis’ greatest stars, we can raise the level even higher,” said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA.  “We believe Tennis Night can be a platform to kick off the tennis season in hundreds of markets throughout the United States.”

Sampras, who began his professional career at the age of 16 in 1988, holds 14 Grand Slam singles titles, the most Wimbledon titles (7), two Australian Open titles, five US Open singles titles, and the record for the most number of weeks as World No. 1 with a total of 286 weeks.

Sampras debuted in 1988 and played his last professional tournament in 2002 when he captured the US Open, defeating longtime rival Agassi in the final. Sampras walked away with a total of 64 singles titles and a World No. 1 ranking, which he held for a record six consecutive years from 1993 – 1998. Sampras was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007.

In addition to serving as the Tennis Night in America spokesman, Sampras will also play in the BNP Paribas Showdown. In 2011 the event will renew classic rivalries of the 80’s and 90’s, as John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl will compete in a one set pro match (first player to win eight games) followed by a best of three set match between Sampras and Andre Agassi. The four all-time greats have won a combined 37 Grand Slam Singles titles and 295 ATP Tour events.

“Tennis Night in America” began in 2009 and is a partnership between the USTA and StarGames, the co-promoter of the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.

“We started ‘Tennis Night in America’ as a promotional idea, and with the partnership of the USTA, it has grown into an exciting grassroots program to involve the broad tennis community,” said Jerry Solomon, President and CEO of StarGames. “With Pete’s support and involvement this year, the whole concept is taken to an even greater level. Pete has been an inspiration to so many tennis players, and we look forward to him spreading the message of the game on this special day.”

The BNP Paribas Showdown is produced by StarGames and MSG Sports. Tickets will officially go on sale September 27 @ 10:00 a.m. and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office and all Ticketmaster outlets. BNP Paribas Showdown information, including an opportunity to sign up for pre-sale alerts prior to tickets going on sale, can be found at www.tennisshowdown.com.

For more information on “Tennis Night in America,” fans around the country can visit www.tennisnight.com.

Aaron Proud To Break Barriers

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It’s fitting that the United States Tennis Association, decided to honor baseball Hall of Famer Henry Aaron in its annual “Breaking the Barriers” Reception, because it happened in the shadow of the US Open’s centerpiece Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Actually, the former home run king actually met Ashe a few times during their storied careers.

“I met Arthur twice,” said Aaron, who was honored along with former USTA president Judy Lavering and AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega. “Once when he was about to do a television show with my wife. She used to do a television show in Atlanta. And then I met him in Milwaukee, but I read so many things about him, I knew I admired him and what he stood for. He was an example of what I always wanted to be in my life.”

Aaron sees Ashe as a mirror to his own career. When he came up to the Milwaukee Braves back in 1954, he experienced the same racism as the former US Open Champion did in the 1960s. “I think he handled it some of the same,” he said.  “I would say Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson almost had the same kind of reaction as Jackie [Robinson] and me or everyone with some color.”

Things on the racial front have gotten better according to Aaron, but he does feel that there is still room to improve.

“One of the things that bothers me is that after Jackie Robinson broke in 1947, we had so many American blacks playing baseball,” he said. “It’s not that case anymore. It seems like it has gone backwards and it’s gone the other way around. Had things had gotten better, yes. We can stay in the hotels we want to stay at and we can go wherever we want to go. But if you don’t have the money, then you don’t have the money to do those things.”

Of course there are reasons for it. Economics for one, according to Aaron, as young African Americans are choosing to go the quicker money in football and basketball, rather risk a longer career in baseball. So, he feels baseball needs to get the message out and get more and more athletes playing the sport.

The same holds true for tennis, but events like tonight’s, of course improve the sport’s standing in the community.

And maybe one day Aaron will see another African American champion on at the US Open. Although James Blake was the sport’s top player, he never won the big match.

For now, though, Aaron will enjoy the game as it is. A follower of the sport since John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg had their epic battles in the last 1970s and early 1980s; Aaron likes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to meet in the finals during this tournament, and is a real big fan of Kim Clijsters.

“She showed that she can weather some adversity when she went to have her family and now she’s back and on top,” he said. “I wish her all the luck in the world.”

Fitting words from a fitting honoree.