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Florida Tennis Briefs(3): Agassi-Graf 10-U Commercial, Sharapova Loves to Drive, More

July 20, 2011 10:10 AM
2 Florida Student-Athletes Among 40 at USTA Leadership Camp in California

NJTL logo webForty student athletes from around the country, two from Florida, have been selected to attend the 27th annual USTA/NJTL Tennis Leadership Camp in Sonoma Valley, Calif. The camp, held through the end of this week, is for youth ages 12-14 who participate in National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network chapters nationwide.

The two Florida student-athletes are Cameron Allen of Miami and the Greater Miami Tennis and Education Foundation, and Tatiyana Roberts of Jacksonville and the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation.

During camp, instructors emphasize the importance of individual skill development, physical fitness, proper nutrition and good sportsmanship. The students receive tennis lessons from several of the most experienced coaches in the game; hear from 12-time Olympic medal winner and first paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro Chris Waddell; and visit popular tourist attractions in and around San Francisco.

"We're excited to provide an atmosphere that fosters the values and educational-based training that is a cornerstone of the USTA NJTL Leadership Camp," said Barry Ford, director, Education, Advocacy & Public Affairs, USTA. "These young people come together from diverse backgrounds to share common experiences, form new friendships and work on their tennis skills. We are pleased to be able to provide them with this opportunity."

The NJTL network of organizations was co-founded by humanitarian and tennis great Arthur Ashe.

"We are most proud that we can continue to introduce the values and beliefs of Arthur Ashe's dream of humanitarianism, leadership and academic excellence," said Kurt Kamperman, chief executive, Community Tennis, USTA. "We hope the camp will foster more leaders and champions like the great Arthur Ashe."

The USTA/NJTL Tennis Leadership Camp was created in 1984 to provide an educational and motivational tennis experience for NJTL participants who might not otherwise have access to such an opportunity. The camp is held in a different city each year and has recently been held in Atlanta, Denver, Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Diego and Orlando, Fla.

USTA, Agassi, Graf Team for 10 and Under Tennis Commercials

The USTA is teaming up with Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf to encourage children to get healthy, active and into the game through the USTA's 10 and Under Tennis program. Agassi and Graf unveil their sense of humor and comedic timing in telling the story of a child overcoming the difficulties of learning the game.

The collaboration will launch a new commercial that will air during the Olympus US Open Series and the US Open. The 30-second commercial, which is titled Story Time, promotes the innovative approach that 10 and Under Tennis offers kids to easily participate in the sport by featuring smaller courts, shorter and lighter racquets, slower-bouncing balls and simplified scoring -- all designed to make tennis more fun from the first time kids experience it.

The campaign aims to increase youth participation and generate awareness among parents who want their young children to have fun while learning how to play the game.

Story Time features Agassi and Graf reading a book to a group of children and narrating the story of a little girl named Sophie who just wanted to have fun. She tried playing tennis only to discover that the equipment and courts were not designed for kids to play on. The commercial also uses animation to depict how learning and playing the game can be overwhelming for some children when they first begin learning the game. However, 10 and Under Tennis, which is "real" tennis sized-right for kids, now allows them to enjoy playing the game from the start.

Agassi, a Hall-of-Famer and eight-time Grand Slam singles champion; and Graf, a 22-time Grand Slam singles title champion and Olympic gold medal winner, are both widely known for their dedication to helping children reach their athletic potential through their philanthropic efforts. Agassi and Graf are great proponents of the USTA's 10 and Under Tennis program.

"As a mother and life-long tennis player, I fully understand the importance of ensuring that kids properly learn the game of tennis at their own pace while also having fun doing it. Anytime kids can get a true feel for the game, it is best," Graf said.

While newer to the U.S., similar mini-tennis programs have long existed is Europe where stars such as Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters first learned the game with child-scaled equipment.

"10 and Under Tennis gives children the opportunity to experience authentic court movement, swing patterns and game strategy. It is real tennis and a step in the right direction to getting more young kids involved in the game that I love," Agassi said.

Florida's Sharapova Dishes on Driving to Tournaments, Fitness, Beating the Heat

Sharapova05Bradenton, Florida-based Maria Sharapova took a break from training for the grueling U.S. summer hardcourt circuit this week to talk with reporters via telephone -- but that didn't mean you could get the recent Wimbledon runner-up off the court.

"Do you understand my fitness coach is giving me a dirty look because I am sitting by the fence on the court in between my fitness workout?" Sharapova said. "I'm serious. No, I have all these cones lined up by my, and I'm feeling sick because I know in five minutes I'm going to be jumping over those things.

"Go take a lunch break," Sharapova told her coach as the reporters laughed.

Sharapova is preparing to make her debut on the U.S. summer circuit next week at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Calif. After overcoming a serious shoulder surgery that has sidelined a number of players' careers over the years, Sharapova is back in the Top 10 at No. 5 for the first time since 2008.

"Little by little, I've taken the small steps and improved little things in my game. Made a few changes in my team. I changed racquets at the end of last year," Sharapova said. "So I think there was a few things. But those little sacrifices that you kind of make, you never quite know when the results will kick in. I feel like little by little I'm getting those."

The Russian-born Sharapova speaks her native tongue, but also speaks longingly of Florida as "home," especially after the long European tournament trips during the claycourt and grasscourt seasons.

"I probably took off about six days [after Wimbledon]," Sharapova said. "I headed straight back home. It was a long trip for me; it was about 11 weeks on the road. So even though I wanted to maybe stay in Europe and take a little vacation, first thing I wanted to do was get back home and just have a normal home life for a few days. I started training right after that."

The U.S. summer circuit is renowned for its often-times-brutal temperatures on hardcourts, something the Sunshine State veteran says she is used to.

"It can get hot, especially in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is probably one of the warmest, sometimes even warmer than the Australian Open, so I have to be extra prepared," Sharapova said. "I grew up in the Florida heat since I was seven years old, and the humidity and the sun, I've gotten used to that over my career. So when it gets above 100 or something, it doesn't matter how well you prepared. It's going to affect you at some point. It's really good how you handle it, how you come through, and how tough you are."

Sharapova revealed that next week in Stanford, one of the things she looks forward to the most is driving herself rather than being chauffeured at a tournament.

"I have a home in Manhattan Beach, so it's quite close for me," Sharapova said. "And I like a place where you can actually drive to your matches instead of having a driver. You can have your own car and drive around. Yeah, just feels a little bit more normal."

The world No. 5 says that in addition to Stanford, she will also compete at Toronto and Cincinnati before taking to the courts at the site of her 2006 triumph, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the US Open. 





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