By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- The newest member of the CBS "CSI" cast, long-standing and celebrated actress Elisabeth Shue, was the last to be asked to leave the Tennis Warehouse demo court at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Thursday, as the sun sunk below the picturesque Palm Springs mountains.
Playing on the same court and next to eight local Indian Wells 10 and Under players who were having just as much fun, Shue continued hitting with popular CBS entertainment news show "The Insider" host Kevin Frazier for another 25 minutes. After that, it was finally time to call it quits, as the next set of Indian Wells tennis fans waited patiently in line to use the court.
"I never get to hit, so this is great," said Frazier, who took part in a USTA 10 an Under Tennis demonstration along with Shue.
Frazier and Shue were joined by ATP pro John Isner and WTA pro Sloane Stephens and shared the court with the children using the smaller courts, racquets and bigger balls, demonstrating the innovative way for kids to learn the game.
"I think the 10 and Under Tennis concept is great because these kids can go out and rally and have fun on the first day," said Shue. "There is a game for them to play right away, and that is so important for kids at this age."
Stephens said that 10 and Under Tennis is "awesome" and easier for kids to get hooked on a sport for a lifetime.
"The kids seem to really enjoy the smaller courts and the bigger balls," she said. "Most of us played with pros who just dropped the balls and said, ‘Go ahead and hit it.’ They can actually get rallies going, and it seems to help them out, instead of missing every ball and moving back to the end of the line. I like it a lot."
Added Isner, "It’s great, I think. It’s easier on the arm, and the racquets aren’t as heavy. The balls are easier to make into the court, and the kids aren’t spending half their time picking up balls. I think it’s a great tool, and these kids know they will all graduate to the full court soon."
Adam Jasick, the director of junior tennis at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, feels 10-and-Under Tennis is a great format for kids to get into the game because the equipment is finally the right size.
"The courts are the right size, the racquets are the right size, and the balls are the right speed," Jasick said. "Previously, the kids were like in size 22 shoes with a basketball, and we were asking them to play in the middle of the Staples Centers where the Lakers play. Now, we have a court that is the right size for their bodies, and they are able to play the way they are going to play when they are adults."
He added, "The advice that I would give to parents who are apprehensive about 10 and Under Tennis is that, first, it’s logical to put a kid on a court that fits them. No. 2 is to find a coach that works for them and who is using it, understands it and is willing to give it a shot. I have not had a parent who tried it and then all of a sudden stopped. Once they have tried it, they are able to realize their kids can become better players."
One of Jasick’s students, Trey Timberlake, is an advocate of the new program. "The balls are big and super soft. It’s easier to hit than the yellow ball," he said.
Added Eduardo Gonzales, "I hit the red balls better than I do the yellow balls. It’s easier to play tennis this way."
Tournament manager and former professional player Charlie Pasarell took time out to check out the action.
"It takes about five years to be able to teach the so-called fundamentals of the game of tennis," he said. "That’s just to learn the fundamentals. And then to master the fundamentals, it takes longer. So if you start a kid at six, then at age 11, he’s got a pretty good mastery of the fundamentals, and you take it from there. That’s why the 10 and Under program is so great and that the focus is there. In order to enjoy this game for a lifetime, you have to play this game well competitively. That’s why it’s important to start them earlier and for them to do well at it at an earlier age."