Lil' Bow Wo
James Blake & Ashley Harkleroad
Taylor Dent & Laura Granville
Jan-Michael Gambill & Venus Williams
Martina Hingis & Lleyton Hewitt
Playing For Charity
At The Open With Marcia Frost...
Saturday, August 25th
The day began with assorted exhibitions and games for kids of all ages. From clinics with players like Alexandra Stevenson, Lleyton Hewitt and Michael Chang, to Skills Challenges and Face Painting, there was something for everyone. The stadium plaza rang with the sounds of Play, while Fred Flintestone and Geoffrey the Toys R US Giraffe roamed the crowds amidst the face-painters and autograph seekers (Luke Jensen and Mike Russell were just a few of the players gladly sitting for hours and signing autographs.)
In the spirit of Arthur Ashe and his charitable nature, there was no admission to the grounds and all of the activities on the courts were free of charge. In order to continue to raise money for the Ashe founded USA Tennis National Junior Tennis League, the only cost were refreshments and admission into the stadium show.
The show in the stadium began a few minutes late to allow for the thousands of spectators to find there seats. Hosts Summer Sanders, multiple medal winner at the 1992 Olympics as well as host of the Nikolodeon show Figure It Out, and CBS' Mark McEwen navigated the program of musical and tennis talent for over two hours. Though there were some breaks to re-tape -- the show is being aired on CBS tomorrow -- everything ran smoothly.
The first act of the show featured Rap artist Lil' Bow Wow. The 13 year old looked miniscule on the large stage as he sang to the cheering crowd. Though he only sang one song at the beginning, he did return later in the show to rap one more song to the screaming kids.
The first tennis exhibition of the day was a take-off of the television show Survivor featuring four up and coming pro stars. James Blake, Taylor Dent, Ashley Harkleroad and Laura Granville played mixed doubles as each was "voted off." The remaining player was Ashley, much to the agreement of her fans. She seemed very comfortable with her own audience and let the crowd know she was ready to be a performer even when she wasn't swinging a racquet.
After some bantering and clips of past musical guests by the Jensen brothers, the main attraction performed. O-Town took the stage with their top-10 hit "All or Nothing" as their fans -- mostly female -- cheered loudly. Proving that they were more just the Making The Band TV show, Ashley Parker Angel, Eri-Michael Estrada, Dan Miller, Trevor Penick and Jacob Underwood performed a total of four of their popular songs.
There were three other entertaining tennis showcases between the musical acts. The first was an exhibition mixed doubles match that pitted Venus Williams & Jan-Michael Gambill against Martina Hingis & Lleyton Hewitt. In his usual comedic form, John McEnroe refereed the display, which was won by Venus & Jan-Michael.
A very interesting challenge was presented by American Express which allowed the players to win money for their own specific charities. Playing in this event were Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and O-Town members Erik-Michael Estrada and Trevor Penick. Each player was given a turn to try to hit shots into one of the AmEx displays for $2,000 each. The singers surprised the audience with some decent tennis skills and won a few dollars for their respective charities. The biggest winner, however, was Martina Hingis, who collected $18,800 for her charity.
The final tennis display of the day was between Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick. The two began a ten point game refereed by John McEnroe. Though the game never really had a serious tone, it became more fun when John took over for Andy and played to a hilarious loss.
There is no doubt that this year's Arthur Ashe Kids' Day was a success, adding to the more than $2 million dollars the event has already raised for the USA Tennis NJTL. And just as important as that -- everyone had a lot of fun!
One last (and sad) Qualifying tournament note... Sixteen year old Cory Ann Avants, who recently turned professional, was forced to retire during her match against Evelyn Fauth. Cory Ann asked for -- and received -- treatment from a trainer, but it was not enough for her knee injury and she forfeited the match.
Until Monday (No Tennis in Flushing Tomorrow)...
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