By John Delong
Chick-fil-A Kids Day presented by USTA North Carolina proved to be a huge success on Monday as about 260 local youth and 50 volunteers participated in a fun-filled morning of tennis, food and games at the Wake Forest Indoor Tennis Center.
The youngsters, who came from Winston-Salem community and recreation programs, played with shorter rackets and larger balls in keeping with the USTA’s QuickStart tennis program. Many were playing tennis for the first time.
ATP World Tour pros John Isner and Pablo Andular visited the gathering and posed for pictures, and gave a few pointers along the way. Also on hand were commentator Mal Washington, Bo the Winston-Salem Open mascot, the Chick-fil-A cow, and one of the Davis Cup Net Heads.
The 6-9 Isner dwarfed the kids, ages 12-under. It’s the second straight year the Greensboro native has participated in Chick-fil-A Kids Day activities.
"It’s something that I was a part of when I was their age, so for me to be able to give back to these kids is always special," Isner said. "I’m glad this tournament set this up. I know myself and Pablo enjoyed being out there. It seems like most of these kids, it’s their first time playing tennis, so I’m glad they have been introduced to playing tennis."
Kelly Gaines, the executive director of USTA North Carolina, said that the purpose of the event was to reach out to those who might not be familiar with the sport.
"They got a little taste of tennis this summer and now they’re here to enjoy the cherry on top," Gaines said. "We wanted to give these kids a chance to have a good time and just try it. We’re not worried about their grip, we’re not worried about any of that technical stuff, we just want them to have a good time and then go, ‘Hey Mom, Dad, I want to keep trying tennis.’"
Tournament director Bill Oakes said that Chick-fil-A Kids Day is a win-win for the kids and for the tournament.
"We are a community-oriented tournament and we try to give back to the community in every way that we can," Oakes said. "These kids don’t get the normal experience where they can come out and see professional tennis. So for us to be able to provide this as a community event is really special for us and the players."