By Benjamin Snyder
On a sunny Saturday start to the 2012 Western & Southern Open, the AdvancePierre Food's Kids Day event kicked off at the Lindner Family Tennis Center as the men’s and women’s qualifying events completed their first rounds. WTA players Camila Giorgi of Italy and Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan joined fans for an exhibition during an activities-packed event for the youthful tennis players on Court 9.
Representatives from the United States Tennis Association moderated the various on-court games available to the Western & Southern Open’s youngest fans. As music blasted from the sound speakers surrounding the court, families cheered on their excited participants as they performed during the various games planned for their enjoyment.
Along with prizes available from Penn and AdvancePierre Foods energy bars available for the young athletes, participants enjoyed the opportunity to put their tennis abilities to the test by playing "age appropriate tennis with age appropriate rackets" as part of the USTA’s Ten and Under Tennis initiative.
Hitting with Head rackets provided for the event, selected fans received instructions to play a game called "Splat," in which competitors practiced accuracy and control by trying to guide foam tennis balls on top of circular, yellow and red targets placed around the court.
In another game, called "Pizza," teams formed together to sandwich tennis balls between rackets. As they ran to the net as a single unit, the youthful athletes combined forces to keep the "pizza" of rackets and tennis balls in tact by maintaining balance and focus.
Giorgi, the World No. 92, and Pervak, the World No. 72, made it to the court minutes later as cheers erupted from the gathered fans. The players obliged to a brief interview, answering questions about their recent success on Tour. While the wild card Giorgi briefly spoke about advancing to the round of 16 at Wimbledon this July for her career breakthrough in a major tournament, Pervak, a titlist at Tashkent last year, shared a few words about making it to the same round at the All England Club in 2011.
Soon after, the WTA pros stepped on to the QuickStart tennis courts set up for their arrival. Giorgi and Pervak rallied back and forth with the young fans ahead of their opening round main draw matches, which are slated to begin upon completion of the qualifying tournament.
Later on Saturday, fans also enjoyed the opportunity to receive autographs from athletes and to get their faces painted.
On Sunday, Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine High School Day will feature events planned for older fans, including the opportunity to take part in another exhibition with either WTA or ATP players as the second round of the qualifying event takes place.