By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
SAN DIEGO -- It was not just a regular afternoon of tennis Wednesday at Youth Tennis San Diego, a local after-school program in Southern California, as more than 300 children from the San Diego area received some special instruction on their tennis at the Barnes Tennis Center.
On this special day, they took to the courts and received some pointers from Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Liezel Huber, CoCo Vandeweghe and Mary Joe Fernandez, all in town, of course, to play Italy in the 2010 Fed Cup Final.
The team took some time to hit balls with the children, who all received a turn at hitting with one of the pro players. The children played with the equipment for 10 and Under Tennis, which uses the QuickStart play format introduced by the USTA to scale the game of tennis down to kids' size so it is both easier and more fun for them to play. They use smaller racquets, play on smaller courts and use foam balls, all of which make it easier for the youngsters to hit balls over the net, as well as keep rallies going.
As the professionals hit with their new partners, they saw some very promising young players and made sure they knew it. They also offered instruction to any who needed it.
"Nice shot!" called Huber to one young girl as she clapped.
"Good job, Bud! Look at that topspin!" Mattek-Sands added to one young boy from across the net.
After taking turns hitting with the U.S. Fed Cup Team, the kids then had the opportunity to ask some questions of their favorite players.
They found out Mattek-Sands was a big fan of both her captain, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Monica Seles when she was younger.
"Is it hard to be away from your family for so long?" asked another young fan.
Oudin answered the question and confirmed it was but that it was well worth it.
"It is definitely pretty hard. I am pretty new to the WTA Tour, so the traveling is a lot, but I love it," she said.
And Fernandez was asked what the best advice was she could give to a young player. The answer was the same thing she often tells her own team, and nothing different from what the kids were out there doing that afternoon.
"Make sure you are having fun," she said.