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Screaming Fans Greet U.S. Davis Cup Team in Jacksonville

January 29, 2013 05:10 PM
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The U.S Davis Cup team with essay contest winner Wallace Grissett. From left to right: captain Jim Courier, Sam Querrey, Mike Bryan, John Isner, Bob Bryan (all photos by Andy McFarland/USTA Florida)
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More than 400 screaming Stockton Elementary students in Jacksonville greeted the U.S. Davis Cup team on Tuesday, chanting "USA! USA!" and receiving the opportunity to hit with John Isner, Sam Querrey and Bob and Mike Bryan.
 
The event was a Tennis Festival featuring the Davis Cup squad, won by Stockton Elementary in a writing contest, and hosted by the United States Tennis Association-Florida Section (USTA Florida).
 
The pint-sized players hit with the American stars on smaller 10 and Under Tennis courts, using kid-sized racquets and lower-compression balls that bounced in their hitting zones at waist level.
 
"I'm a big proponent of 10 and Under Tennis," said U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier, standing courtside as the Bryan brothers rallied with two elementary students. "It really opens up opportunities for a lot of kids to feel good about playing tennis. It's tennis made easy with the balls and the smaller courts. We've done 10 and Under Tennis events all around the country, in schools and gymnasiums where you put the lines down, put the nets up and kids love it, it's a great introduction to the sport."
 
The U.S. Davis Cup visit to Stockton Elementary was made possible by fourth-grader Wallace Grissett, who was named the winner of a Duval County Public Schools' district-wide writing contest with the theme "How does tennis make you a healthy person?"
 
"He just loves tennis," said his mother Deb Grissett. "When 10 and Under Tennis first cameo out, we wanted to do it immediately, so we went out and bought the balls and nets and were playing in the driveway. He first started playing when he was six years old. He would hit on the tiny net with the foam balls, Then he advanced to the red ball, and the orange, and the green, and it has been great. These kids even at the lower levels play real points. It's all about having fun, and he has become a good player."
 
Isner did not start playing tennis until age 10, but thinks the 10 and Under Tennis format would have given him a head start.
 
"I wasn't that good [beginning tennis], but I started getting better and better," says the U.S.'s No. 1 player. "I think 10 and Under Tennis is great -- when kids are this small at this age, it's hard for them to play on a full-size court with full-size racquets. In 10 and Under Tennis the balls are softer and the racquets are smaller, it makes it easier for the kids to keep the ball in play, and they're going to have a lot of fun."
 
After more than an hour of cheering on the U.S. team, hitting with the players and asking them a few questions, the children headed back to class.
 
"There were a lot more kids than everyone thought," Querrey said about the tennis assembly on the school's two tennis courts.
 
Stockton Elementary Principal Charlene McEarl added, "It's an honor for our community to have this event. Our community is heavily involved in healthy lifestyles including tennis, so this couldn't have ended up in a better community."
 
 
 
 
 

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