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Former Tennis Pro Andy Ram Talks Tennis Wisdom

Andy Ram

Andy Ram

Kings County Tennis League recently had the pleasure of speaking with retired tennis pro Andy Ram. Andy, who hails from Israel, is best known for his performance in Men’s Doubles; in 2008, he and his partner Jonathan Elrich ranked fifth in the world.

Today, Andy serves as the CEO of Pulse Play, a social tennis smart watch for scorekeeping and rankings. Though Andy no longer competes on the court, his continued involvement in the tennis community positions him as an excellent resource to players of all abilities. Whether you’re just learning the game or have been playing for decades, we hope that Andy’s tennis advice works to your advantage.

How were you introduced to tennis?

My father introduced me to tennis when I was five years old. As an ex-soccer player who experienced multiple injuries, he wanted his kids to play non-contact sports.

Who were your role models as you first learned the game?

Jimmy Conners, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, but my favorite was definitely Andre Agassi.

What advice would you give to a discouraged young player who hasn't yet mastered the basics?

Always remember you're there to enjoy the game. If you combine your dedication and commitment with a smile, you'll both master the basics and enjoy the journey getting there.

What do you think is the greatest mental/emotional benefit of playing tennis?

Balancing the competitive nature of the game with respect and sportsmanship. This is a huge part of the game and something you can extend to your life outside the court.

What is the greatest tennis-related challenge you've had to overcome in your career?

Coming back to the game from injury. In 2002, I underwent two surgeries: one on my knee and the other on my back. I was on crutches for three months and out of the game for a year. Starting again from zero to get back to pro-level was the toughest challenge I ever experienced, but I persevered and I did it.

Pulse Play's social integration is building a global community of tennis players. How do you feel that tennis builds community in general?

What I love about tennis is how naturally social it is. It's an international sport that brings people together.

What is your favorite thing about tennis?

I love the game of tennis because there is no age limit. You can play it from the age of five years old to 90 (and I actually know some 90-year-olds who play it!). It's a sport you can enjoy for life, and from which you can benefit physically, mentally and socially.

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Pro Tennis: Wimbledon Women's Winner - Petra Kvitova

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Pro Tennis: Wimbledon Women's Winner - Petra Kvitova

Since there was no class this past weekend due to the holiday, I thought we'd continue our Pro Tennis series because there was plenty of Wimbledon this weekend. Click to learn more about Wimbledon's Men's winner, Novak Djokovic who was featured in our tennis pro series last year. This post is dedicated to the Wimbledon women's winner, Petra Kvitova (Czech).

Photo from petrakvitova.net.

This is Petra's second Wimbledon win, she won previously in 2011 by beating Maria Sharapova (6-3, 6-4). This year, she defeated Bouchard (6-3, 6-0) to win the title. In 2012, she reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and the French Open. Her highest career-ranking was world no. 2 in 2011. Her current ranking is 4th in the world. Kvitova went pro in 2006.

Fun facts: Kvitova is left-handed. She hits with a double-handed backhand. She also plays basketball and volleyball.

For more information on Kvitova, check out her website or her Wikipedia page.

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Pro Tennis: Arthur Ashe

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Pro Tennis: Arthur Ashe

Last Saturday, KCTL took it's players, volunteers and parents to the US Open's Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. It's a great day for the kids to watch the professionals practice (there were Nadal, Federer and Djokovic sightings!), get on to the courts for tennis games, and watch live musical performances. But it's also a day to talk about Arthur Ashe and his legacy on and off the court. arthurashe

Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) was the first, and is still the only, African American male to win the US Open (1968) and Wimbledon (1975). He also won the Australian Open in 1970, and made it to the quarterfinals at the French Open in 1970 and 1971. As a doubles player, he won the Australian Open (1977) and French Open (1971). He also made the finals in Wimbledon (1971) and the US Open (1968).

After Ashe retired in 1980 after heart surgery, he became an author, a civil rights activist, chairman of the American Heart Association, a commentator for ABC Sports, captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, and founder of the National Junior Tennis League (that KCTL is a part of.)

In 1983, with Harry Belafonte, Ashe founded the Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid. From the Arthur Ashe Learning Center website, "His commitment and efforts toward this cause were such that when Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner of the South African government for 27 years, was first set free and was asked whom in the U.S. he wished to have visit, he said, 'How about Arthur Ashe?'"

Arthur Ashe died in 1993 from AIDS-related pneumonia. He and his doctors believed he contracted the virus during his second open-heart surgery through blood transfusions. A year before his death, he went public with his illness. Ashe also founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health.

In 1979, he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. In 1983, he was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame. In 1985, he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1986, Ashe won a sports Emmy.

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After his death, President Clinton posthumously awarded Ashe the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And in 1993, he received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. The main stadium at the US Open, the Health and Wellness Center at his alma mater at UCLA, and an ESPN ESPY award are all named in his honor. In 2005, the USPS released a commemorative Arthur Ashe postal stamp.

To learn more about Arthur Ashe:

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Pro Tennis: #1 Women's Doubles – Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani

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Pro Tennis: #1 Women's Doubles – Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani

According to the Women's Tennis Assocciation (WTA) the current #1 women's doubles team is Sara Errani (Italy) and Roberta Vinci (Italy). Together, they've won the 2012 French Open, US Open and Australian Open. To say the least, 2012 was a very good year for the team. Vinci is ranked #11 in Singles while her doubles partner, Errani, is ranked at #6. In 2012, Vinci made it to the quarterfinals in women's singles at the U.S. Open, but her partner Errani edged her out, 6-2, 6-4. Errani went on to lose to Serena Williams in the semifinals, 6-0, 6-1.

Roberta Vinci goes for the ball.

Sara Errani was born in Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy and has trained as a teenager in both Florida and Valencia, Spain. Errani is right-handed, with a two-handed backhand. She's know as a "clay-court" specialist and is "renowned for her use of strategy on the surface—including her tendency to position herself well, and to return serves early." She won the 2012 French Open (on clay) in singles defeating Maria Sharapova. Learn more about Sara Errani.

Roberta Vinci was born in Taranto, Italy. Vinci has won 27 WTA Tour titles, eight in singles and 19 in doubles. She is right-handed with a one-handed backhand. Vinci is self-described as nice, clever, polite. Learn more about Roberta Vinci.

Sara Errani (left) and Roberta Vinci (right) after a win.

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VIDEO: Youth Tennis Inspiration

We're approaching mid-season, and I thought that instead of just posting the usual video tutorial, I'd post a few inspiring videos. KCTL is determined to bring tennis to the kids because we truly believe kids can learn so many things about themselves and life through the game of tennis, and that everyone should have the opportunity to play if they so choose.

Here's a quick video from the USTA highlighting that yes, Under 10 youth tennis is definitely real tennis. And these kids are yes, real tennis players. If you disagree, swing by the KCTL courts the next time we have a public event. We'll change your mind!

For more inspiration, here's a video of Serena Williams playing at age 12.

Lastly, here's a video from PlaySportsTV for our players and coaches. Sometimes it can be hard for younger kids to keep the ball in the court as they begin to rally with each other. Try a "juggle rally" to keep the ball in play longer. Watch the video on YouTube.

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Pro Tennis: Andy Murray

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Pro Tennis: Andy Murray

On Saturday, July 6, Andy Murray broke a 77-year dry spell for Britain. He won London's grand slam, Wimbledon aka The Championships, by beating Novak Djokovic 6-4 7-5 6-4. It was an impressive match, you can watch match highlights here.

Andy Murray is Scottish and British and currently ranked #2 in the world. The past year has been a solid one for him, he won the gold at the 2012 Olympics beating Roger Federer, and Murray won the 2012 US Open beating Djokovic.

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Murray's been playing tennis competitively since the age of 11. Later at 16, he was diagnosed with bipartite patella, where the kneecap remains as two separate bones instead of fusing together in early childhood. During matches, you'll see Murray frequently hold his knee due to the pain caused by the condition. It's incredible that he can play and win with an ailment like that!

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Murray's playing style includes groundstrokes with low error rate, an nuanced ability to anticipate and react and quick transitions from defense to offense. Murray is one of the top returners in the game, returning fast serves with his excellent reach and ability to anticipate. For this reason, Murray is rarely aced. Murray is known for being one of the most intelligent tacticians on the court, often constructing points. It's also been suggested that Murray has the best lob in the game.

For more information, visit his Wikipedia page.

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VIDEO: Mini-Court Tennis, Even for the Pros

As our players become more proficient in their strokes, and at the end of the year tournament, we have them play points, games and matches on youth-sized tennis courts. Generally this means, court sizes of 36' x 18' for kids under 8 and 60' x 21' for kids over 9.

Sometimes the older or more advanced youth athletes dislike playing on such a small court. They want to move up to the adult-size court so they can really whack the ball around. But there is much to gain from practicing on a small court -- so much that even the pros do it!

Check out this short video of Novak Djokovic rallying with Dusan Vemic in 2011 on a small court. They get in 68 hits before stopping!

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Jon vs. Jon French Open: And the Winner is... !

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Jon vs. Jon French Open: And the Winner is... !

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Jon T., the T is for Triumph.

We followed both Jon's picks for the French Open for men and women's singles since the 4th round. View post #1 and post #2 to see their early picks. We left off last week with Jon T at 31 pts and Jon W. at 26 pts. Here's how the rest of the tournament played out.

Men's Semi-finals: (3 pts)

Djokovic vs Nadal* (4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 tiebreaker 7-3, 7-9)
Jon T: +3 | Jon W: 0

Ferrer* vs Tsonga (6-1, 7-6 tiebreaker 7-3, 6-2)
Jon T: 0 | Jon W: 0

Men's Finals: (5 pts)

Nadal* vs. Ferrer (6-3, 6-2, 6-3)
Jon T: 0 | Jon W: 0

Nadal clinched the 2013 French Open title, but it was of no help to either Jon. At the end of the men's round, Jon T. with 34 pts still leads Jon W. with 26 pts.

Women's Finals: (5 pts)

Williams* vs Sharapova (6-4, 6-4)
Jon T: +5 | Jon W: +5

Final Tally

With both Jon's getting five points for picking Serena Williams to win it all, the spread stays the same. Jon T. finishes with 39 points and Jon W. finishes with 31 pts. Both had a good showing, the entire bracket was done out of a possible 54 pts. Join us next time when the Jons go head-to-head for Wimbledon!

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Jon vs. Jon French Open: Update

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Jon vs. Jon French Open: Update

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Two of KCTL's fearless leaders, Jon T. and Jon W. decided to throw their hats into the ring to compete in a French Open bracket. We left off after the 4th round of men and women's singles, with Thompson beating Williams by a point, 14-13. Let's see how they did:

Men's Singles Quarterfinals: (2 pts each)

Djokovic* vs. Haas (6-3, 7-6 tiebreaker 7-5, 7-5)
Jon T: +2 | Jon W: +2

Nadal* vs. Wawrinka (6-2, 6-3, 6-1)
Jon T: +2 | Jon W: +2

Robredo vs. Ferrer* (2-6, 1-6, 1-6)
Jon T: +2 | Jon W: +2

Tsonga* vs. Federer (7-5, 6-3, 6-3)
Jon T: 0 | Jon W: 0

Results: At the end of the men’s singles quarterfinals, each Jon gained +6 points.

Women's Singles Quarterfinals: (2 pts each)

Williams* vs. Kuznetsova (6-1, 3-6, 6-3)
Jon T: +2 | Jon W: +2

Radwanska vs. Errani* (4-6, 6-7 tiebreaker 6-8)
Jon T: +2 | Jon W: 0

Kirilenko vs. Azarenka* (6-7 tiebreaker 3-7, 2-6)
Jon T: +2 | Jon W: +2

Jankovic vs. Sharapova* (6-0, 4-6, 3-6)
Jon T: +2 | Jon W: 0

Results: At the end of the women’s singles quarterfinals, Jon T. +8, Jon W. +4.

Women's Semifinals: (3 pts each)

Williams* vs. Errani (6-0, 6-1)
Jon T: +3 | Jon W: +3

Azarenka vs. Sharapova* (1-6, 6-2, 4-6)
Jon T: 0 | Jon W: 0

Results: At the end of the women’s singles semifnals, Jon T. +3, Jon W. +3.

Current Tally

Jon T. gains a bigger lead over Jon W. (31 - 26).

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Jon vs. Jon: French Open

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Jon vs. Jon: French Open

Two of KCTL's fearless leaders, Jon T. and Jon W. decided to throw their hats into the ring to compete in a French Open bracket. Each Jon submitted their picks earlier in the week and we'll be scoring their choices throughout the rest of the French Open to see who has a reign on the professional game.

jon thompson jon williams

Scoring:

  • 4th Round winners will be awarded one point.
  • Quarterfinal winner wills be awarded 2 points.
  • Semi-final winners will be awarded 3 points.
  • The winning champion will be awarded 5 points.

Men's Singles Round 4:

Djokovic* vs. Kohlschreiber (4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Haas* vs. Youzhny (6-1, 6-1, 6-3)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Nadal* vs. Nishikori (6-4, 6-1, 6-3)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Wawrinka* vs. Gasquet (6-7 (tiebreaker: 5-7), 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 8-6)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Robredo vs. Almagro* (6-7 (tiebreaker: 5-7), 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4)
Jon T: 1 | Jon W: 0

Anderson vs. Ferrer* (3-6, 1-6, 1-6)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Tsonga* vs. Troicki (6-3, 6-3, 6-3)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Simon vs. Federer* (1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Results: At the end of the men's singles, Jon T: 8 and Jon W: 7

Women's Singles Round 4:

Williams* vs. Vinci (6-1, 6-3)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Kuznetsova* vs. Kerber (6-4, 4-6, 6-3)
Jon T: 0 | Jon W: 0

Radwanska* vs. Ivanovic (6-2, 6-4)
Jon T: 0 | Jon W: +1

Suarez Navarro vs. Errani* (7-5, 4-6, 3-6)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Mattek-Sands vs. Kirlienko* (5-7, 4-6)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Schiavone vs. Azarenka* (3-6, 0-6)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Hampton vs. Jankovic* (0-6, 2-6)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: 0

Stephens vs. Sharapova* (4-6, 3-6)
Jon T: +1 | Jon W: +1

Results: At the end of the women's singles, Jon T: 6 and Jon W: 6

Current Tally

At the end of the fourth round picks, Jon T. (14) is edging Jon W. (13) by a point! We he hold his lead for the whole tournament? Check back all week to see how the rest of their choices fare.

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Pro Tennis: #1 in the World – Serena Williams & Victoria Azarenka

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Pro Tennis: #1 in the World – Serena Williams & Victoria Azarenka

The title of 2012 World #1 Player actually goes to different women depending on your source. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) gives the title to Serena Williams and the Women's Tennis Association (WTF) gives it to Victoria Azarenka.

What's the difference? The ITF ranks performances throughout the year, including Grand Slam tournaments, the ATP World Tour Finals, the Davis Cup, and weekly tour events. The WTF ranks performance on a rolling 52-week, cumulative system. But let's not squabble over details, and talk about how amazing these women are.

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Serena Williams, USA
Williams' record basically speaks for itself: 30 Grand Slam titles, 4 Olympic gold medals. She's been named the World No. 1 Female Player in Singles six times. She's also the oldest player, at 31 years old, to receive the honor.

My favorite stat about Serena Williams? She's the only player ever to achieve a Career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles! (A Career Golden Slam means Williams has won all four grand slam tournaments and an Olympic gold medal over the course of her career. And she did that in singles and doubles. Amazing!)

Williams' is mostly a baseline player and her serve is considered "the greatest serve in the history of women's tennis" by many tennis experts. Her serve has been recorded at 128mph. Her powerful and consistent serve supports her aggressive playing style.

vazarenka

Victoria Azarenka, Belarus
Azarenka has won two Australian Open singles titles, one US Open mixed doubles title, French Open mixed doubles, gold medal in mixed doubles and a bronze medal in singles at the 2012 Olympics. Azarenka debuted at the junior tennis level in 2003.

"You don’t expect to be smiling when you’re in a tough battle," says Azarenka.

Azarenka is fluent in Belarusian, Russian, English and has some handling of French and Ukrainian. She regards her grandmother as a source of inspiration for her continued development and play in the sport.

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There's a mild rivalry between Azarenka and Williams. They've gone head to head 14 times, and of those matches, Williams has a win-loss record of 12-2.

Both women are playing in the French Open, happening now until June 9!

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The French Open - The 2nd Grand Slam

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The French Open - The 2nd Grand Slam

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On Sunday, tennis fans around the world will tune in to focus on Paris for the French Open, tennis' 2nd Grand Slam of the year. The year consists of 4 Grand Slam tournaments played on three different surfaces: Australian Open (Hard), French Open (Clay), Wimbledon (Grass) and the U.S. Open (Hard) where men and women compete for tennis' biggest prizes on their biggest stages. While most of will watch a match from one of these tournaments at some point in our lives, not many of us are aware of the deep history of some of these tournaments and today, we will focus on the history of the French Open. French Open court 2008

The French Open is also referred to as "Roland Garros", the name of the famous French World War I aviator and the name of the facility where the tournament takes place (Stade Roland Garros). It is played on "red clay" (red brick dust) but the interesting fact is that the "clay" isn't really clay but is white limestone that is 3 inches thick that is then covered with the red brick dust then watered down to create a coat that gives the clay the look it has.

Rafael Nadal returns the ball during the 2012 French Open tennis tournament in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Rafael Nadal returns the ball during the 2012 French Open tennis tournament in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The tournament began in 1891 as a national amateur men's tournament for players who belonged to a French tennis club. The original name of the tournament was Championnat de France or The French Championships. The ironic thing is the first winner, H. Briggs, was a Brit but a Paris resident. Women were added to the championships in 1897 and the tournament continued to develop and by 1907, had categories similar to a current tennis tournament format (Men's Singles/Doubles, Women's Singles/Doubles and Mixed Doubles). In 1925, the French Open was open to international amateur players and was recognized as a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

Ana Ivanovic, French Open final, 2008. Ana Ivanovic, French Open final, 2008.

Although we are used to the French being the 2nd Grand Slam and Wimbledon being the 3rd Grand Slam, in 1946 and 1947, they swapped places, making Wimbledon 2nd and the French 3rd. The French Open was also the 1st Grand Slam tournament to take the leap of making the tournament "open" or allowing both professionals and amateurs to compete for the same title.

While the French Open was held in a number of facilities between 1891 and 1927, in 1928, the current Stade Roland Garros facility was built on 21 acres of land.

While Wimbledon is regularly praised for their tradition and long-standing history, the French Open was willing to take risks that other tournaments did not. Time and time again, the French Open made changes that changed modern-day tennis that has barely been recognized. When you tune in during the tournament next week or next time you play, think about how some of the advantages tennis players have now were started at the French Open.

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Pro Tennis: #1 in the World - Novak Djokovic

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Pro Tennis: #1 in the World - Novak Djokovic

We're starting a series here on the KCTL blog about professional tennis players, as a way to encourage our youth athletes not only to enjoy playing the game, but also to recognize that the love of the game is shared by many, many people - players and enthusiasts - across the globe.

This week, what better place to start then with the 2012 #1 World Ranked Tennis Players in Men Singles: Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

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Djokovic is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He has won six Grand Slam singles titles: the 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013 Australian Open; the 2011 Wimbledon Championships; and the 2011 US Open. He was the year-end World No. 1 for both 2011 and 2012 according to both the International Federation of Tennis (IFT) and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

Fun Facts:

  • Surname pronounced DJO-ko-vich.
  • Djokovic began playing tennis at the age of four.
  • Djokovic was known for his often humorous off-court impersonations of his fellow players, many of whom are his friends.
  • Andre Agassi considers that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic "may very well be the greatest three players to ever play tennis."
  • Djokovic is an all-court player with emphasis on aggressive baseline play.

For more information, check his Wikipedia page.

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VIDEOS: The Forehand

Last week's class and this upcoming Saturday class are both focused on the basic forehand swing. Here are a few videos to teach and inspire. If you follow along with the videos, and are wondering, KCTL mainly teaches kids the Eastern forehand grip which is the name for when the player "shakes hands" with the racquet.

Tennis Tips: Forehand - Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki
Watch how the professionals swing, includes explanation of different grips and the overall motion of the move.

Tennis Drills for Kids - Evan Tennis
Watch this little boy complete a running forehand similar to Roger Federer's modern take on the swing.

Tennis Forehand- Basic Technique
This video goes over the basics, grip and swing and recovery. Also explains the forehand for left-handed players. Important: "It's best to add power when you can control contact and direction."

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Arthur Ashe Kids Day 2012

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Arthur Ashe Kids Day 2012

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On Saturday, we piled kids, parents and volunteers onto two school buses and took them to the Billie Jean National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY for Arthur Ashe Kids Day! The National Tennis Center was abuzz with thousands of kids and adults. It was great to see so many tennis enthusiasts in one place!

It was a really great day where the kids got to run a variety of drills on the courts, play fun games like Speedzone: How Fast is Your Serve?, and watch the pro tennis players practice--there was even a Roger Federer sighting! Activities were split up by age, so everyone got to do a little something. I was very impressed not only by how well-behaved all the students were amid the 'chaos' but also by their tennis skills! I saw a Marcy student hit a 65 mph serve! Several of them rallied against the pros as if they had been playing since they were born. It was a proud day for KCTL. Later in the afternoon, some of the students entered Arthur Ashe Stadium and enjoyed musical performances from Carly Rae Jepsen and The Wanted.

It was an inspiring day where the kids got to experience both the history and potential future of the sport of tennis. view all the photos from KCTL's trip to Arthur Ashe Kids Day, visit out Facebook page.

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