By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com & Nancy Powell, Lexington Area Tennis Association
When Rafael Nadal dispatched Novak Djokovic in the men's final, it was the conclusion of what was a wildly exciting 2010 US Open, not just for the players but also for the fans that flocked to Flushing Meadows from all across the United States over the course of 15 action-packed days.
Yet, for certain attendees, such as those who are actively involved with tennis year-round in their hometowns as part of a Community Tennis Association (CTA), the pilgrimage to the epicenter of American tennis took on a deeper meaning. As part of USTA.com's recap of the 2010 Open, we will highlight some of the journeys made by these volunteer groups from different parts of the country. In the coming days, five CTAs will tell their stories of travel, tennis and triumph within their communities.
Classified as "any incorporated, geographically defined, not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization that supports or provides programs which promote and develop the growth of tennis," the five CTAs that made it to New York City are but a sampling of over 1,000 CTAs accounted for under the umbrella of the USTA's 17 sections. The associations work primarily at the grassroots level to coordinate and maintain tennis programs and services, guaranteeing that they are open and accessible to all.
Being at the US Open was not only a chance to take in a world-class Grand Slam tournament but also to spread the word about what progress is being made at the local level to preserve the game now being played by over 30 million people nationwide.
"We're extremely pleased that for the first time ever we can utilize the national platform provided by the US Open to recognize the Community Tennis Associations around the nation that are in attendance," said David Slade, USTA National Manager for CTAs. "The US Open and the USTA's family of websites provide a great opportunity to increase awareness amongst tennis fans - many of whom attend the Open themselves - about the programs and services being offered by organizations around the country."
Next, we check in with Nancy Powell of the Lexington Area Tennis Association (LATA) of Lexington, South Carolina. A member of the LATA Board of Directors, Powell, along with three fellow LATA members (who double as some of her best friends in tennis) made the 750-mile flight up the Atlantic Coast to take in the sights and sounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the 2010 US Open. Here's how she described her experience:
As a long time attendee of the US Open, this year was a special one for me. I had the pleasure of taking three of our 2.5 ranked ladies who take regular clinics from me. To see the excitement in their eyes as they watched the matches just made the trip all the more pleasurable for me.
Needless to say, we were in awe for the two days we spent at the Open. USTA Member Appreciation Day on September 3 brought us all a wonderful highlight in meeting Patrick McEnroe and getting him to autograph his book. What a class act he is!
On a special note: One of my players, Betty Hare - "Ms. Betty," as we all call her - has been a huge fan of Melanie Oudin for a long time. Upon entering the Polo Ralph Lauren store, I saw Melanie signing an autograph. I walked over and told Ms. Betty: "There's Melanie over there." She almost jumped over me to get a chance to see her! What a gracious and classy player Melanie was. Perhaps best of all, she got a chance to get in close for a picture with her favorite player - something I know she will cherish for the rest of her life.
In fact, Ms. Betty Hare was so thankful and excited about the experience that she sent me an e-mail after we returned home. It said:: "It was a life dream of mine to attend the US Open since I was a teenager, and thanks to you, Nancy, that dream came true. You can watch it on TV, but there's nothing like seeing the matches and the tennis complex in person - it was absolutely awesome. This trip was an experence I'll always remember, especially the tour of Arthur Ashe Stadium."
As Ms. Betty alluded to, other than the wonderful matches we witnessed, the behind-the-scenes tour of Arthur Ashe Stadium was absolutely incredible. We all enjoyed it so much and it really gave us an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes and the manpower it takes to run and manage this tournament. It was "icing on the cake" to pass this year's champ, Kim Clijsters, in the stairwell!
What a great Open experience! I look forward to next year already and my biggest thanks to the USTA for allowing my group the opportunity to participate in the "spotlight." We are very proud of our CTA, and speaking as one of LATA's founding members, the trip was especially gratifying.