Children flock to Queens for annual ‘Kids Day’

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Children from all over the country served up an ace when they showed up Saturday at the seventh annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Tennis Festival at Flushing’s United States Tennis Association National Tennis Center.

Thousands of children from as far away as Hawaii came out under mostly cloudy skies for the event, which was sponsored by the Aetna insurance company, with much of the proceeds going to the National Junior Tennis League and other children’s charities.

“The energy from any one of these events is amazing,” said tennis star Luke Jensen. “It’s just a great day for families, and I want to see families come out here and enjoy tennis. It’s so much fun.”

Jensen and other tennis stars, including Andre Agassi, Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova and James Blake, helped entertain kids, who were as young as toddlers and as old as 19, by participating in tennis games and training drills on several courts at the tennis center.

On one court, young tennis players got a chance to use a professional’s personal racquet, choosing from a lineup of racquets used by Pete Sampras, Marat Safin, Jennifer Capriati, and several others.

“It’s a wonderful thing for the kids and she’s an incredible player,” said Helen Rubin, of Bayside, referring to her granddaughter, Jessie Rubin, of Merrick, L.I.

“I love it. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve been here every year. It’s incredible. I look forward to it every year,” said


Other children tested their tennis skills at the target challenge, aiming at colorful targets as they were thrown balls to hit. Some hard-hitters clocked the speed of their serve with a machine used by professional players.

The youngest players, who have not yet developed the skill to hit the ball, tried out the obstacle course, jumping through hoops, running around cones and hitting beach balls.

“It’s nice. It’s very friendly and the staff is very enthusiastic,” said Jason Kornrich, of New Hyde Park, L.I., who brought his daughter to the event.

In all there were more than 10 tennis games set up for kids and every one had the opportunity to watch Serena Williams and Justine Henin practice with their coaches in a warm-up for this week’s U.S. Open.

For those not interested in tennis, several popular music groups appeared, too. LMNT, a boy band, was thronged by hundreds of teenage girls as they performed on a stage set up to the tennis courts.

“I loved it. We’ve seen them every time they come to New York. They’re my favorite band,” said Cailin Kelly, 19, of Richmond Hill. The band members called four girls up on stage, including Kelly, to sing a slow song to the teens.

Inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, the center court of the tennis center, musicians Vanessa Carlton, Mario and BBMak entertained the crowd while several tennis stars played games on the court.

Agassi, Blake, Williams, and Kournikova aimed tennis shots at targets, with American Express donating several $2,500 to charity each time they hit one. Even the New Jersey Nets basketball player Jason Kidd, showed up to referee a mock doubles match of Sampras and Agassi against Blake and Andy Roddick.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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