February 5, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: Sports: Tennis: Service: WCBS: The Norwalk Grassroots Tennis program was started in 1995 by Ethiopia Arthur Goldblatt

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ethiopia: Peace Corps Ethiopia : The Peace Corps in Ethiopia: February 5, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: Sports: Tennis: Service: WCBS: The Norwalk Grassroots Tennis program was started in 1995 by Ethiopia Arthur Goldblatt

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The Norwalk Grassroots Tennis program was started in 1995 by Ethiopia Arthur Goldblatt

The Norwalk Grassroots Tennis program was started in 1995 by Ethiopia Arthur Goldblatt

The Norwalk Grassroots Tennis program was started in 1995 by Ethiopia Arthur Goldblatt

Local kids get up-close look at Davis Cup tennis
Thursday February 05, 2004

EAST LYME, Conn. (AP) It wasn't hard for 14-year-old Felipe Lucero to get the hang of being a ballboy, even as tennis balls whizzed by him during practice.

But Felipe is hoping he won't make a mistake in front of such tennis stars as Andy Roddick during Davis Cup matches at Mohegan Sun.

``It's not hard, but you're nervous a little,'' Felipe said after a recent practice at the Lyme Shores Tennis & Conditioning Center.

Felipe, who has been playing for three years through Norwalk Grassroots Tennis, was one of four kids from the program chosen to be ballboys and ballgirls for the Davis Cup.

The Norwalk group is participating in the Davis Cup through the USTA's New England division, said David Kimani, who runs the program at Roodner Court in Norwalk.

``They felt that this would be a great way to get the kids involved in top-flight men's tennis,'' Kimani said. ``It's a great honor for the program and the kids themselves.''

Kimani is a full-time tennis professional at the Kings Highway Tennis Club in Darien, where the children play for free on weekends during the winter.

The program was started in 1995 by Norwalk resident Arthur Goldblatt at Colonial Village and Roodner Court, which have tennis courts. It is funded by private donations and grants from the United States Tennis Association and recently won the USA Tennis New England Community Tennis Association of the Year award.

Jeff Landau, who coordinates the ballboys for USA Tennis New England, said the Davis Cup has not been in Connecticut since the mid-1980s. At most tournaments in the area, such as the Pilot Pen Invitational in New Haven and the U.S. Open in New York City, there are tryouts for the position.

``For the Davis Cup, it just doesn't come along very often,'' Landau said. ``It's a great opportunity for the kids to get involved in a pro tour.''

Kimani said it was difficult to choose from among the 320 children in the Norwalk program. The four he selected were some of the best tennis players in the group, he said.

Working during the matches will give the ballboys an opportunity to watch some of the top players up close, which could improve their game, Kimani said.

``Some of the greatest players have been ballboys and ballgirls,'' Kimani said. ``They're closer than spectators because they're the ones that give them (the players) their towels, hand them their balls. This could be the next step for them performing even better.''

Don Cortese, a USTA official, taught the ballboys how to run after the balls after they hit the net and roll them to the ballboys at the back of the court to hand to players.

Norwalk resident Frank Necatera, 15, said he found the net position difficult because it requires ballboys to rest on their knees.

``They said they're going to have cushions'' at the matches, Frank said.

Frank, who has been playing tennis for more than five years, said he has just started watching the sport on television. His favorite player is Roddick, who won the U.S. Open in September.

Frank said he also likes former Fairfield High School standout James Blake, who he recently saw play at a Rhode Island tournament. But he said he never thought he would get a chance to be on the court with top players.

``I thought it was interesting because I've been to tennis games and I've seen the kids be ballboys,'' Frank said. ``To be that close on the court with them, I never thought I'd be able to do that.''

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Story Source: WCBS

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ethiopia; Sports; Tennis; Service



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