SOMA youth invited to demo at Arthur Ashe Stadium

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SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Eleven junior tennis players from South Orange and Maplewood representing The Maplewood Club, Orange Lawn Tennis Club and West Orange Tennis Club participated in a Net Generation Kids on Court demonstration sponsored by the United States Tennis Association at the 2017 U.S. Open. The demonstration took place at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 31, prior to the first match of the day between no. 4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.

Maplewood Club Tennis Director Tom Battaglia, co-director of tennis and junior programs coordinator at Northern Jersey Tennis, was approached by the USTA earlier this summer to select a group of young tennis hopefuls to participate in the special demonstration.

“It was a truly awesome experience, and I’m thrilled the USTA approached me to do it,” Battaglia said in a press release. “As a tennis professional, I want to make sure kids aren’t standing around in long lines waiting to hit one ball at a time, and that they’re engaging in fun-based play. And that’s what Net Generation is all about. It’s about making sure kids are learning how to play tennis the right way, on the right-sized court with the right equipment, and having fun at the same time.”

Net Generation is the youth brand of the USTA and embraces all aspects of youth play for children aged 5 through 18. Launching at the 2017 U.S. Open, the program is designed to suit players based on their skill level and developmental readiness. The goal of Net Generation is to inspire a new generation of tennis players, parents, coaches and those that organize tennis events. Net Generation is focused on empowerment, unity and play, with an emphasis on learning through play and building character on and off the court — not just through drills and competition.

“We’re very excited to introduce Net Generation at this year’s U.S. Open,” USTA senior manager of marketing Monica LaMura said in the release. “It allows kids of all levels — even kids who have never picked up a racquet — to play and enjoy tennis. Through this new initiative, we’re hoping to connect more kids with local tennis programs across the country and inspire the next generation of players.”

Kids from South Orange-Maplewood played and rallied with fellow players from MatchPoint Tennis in Goshen, N.Y. They fed the ball themselves and kept a rally going of seven or more balls. At the end of the rally, players gave each other a high five to show their sportsmanship and unity, no matter which team they were on. Following the demonstration, Emmett Leonard, 11, of Maplewood was given the honor to toss the coin for the first match. Elina Svitolina went on to defeat Evgeniya Rodina in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.

Participants included: from Livingston, Isabelle Delucca, 8; from Montclair, Kaitlyn Jeffrey, 11; from North Caldwell, Jordan Cohen, 12; from Maplewood, Ellie LoPiccolo, 11, Zoe Woods, 9, Georgia Floyd, 10, Daniel Butkus, 12, Ian Wissel, 12, Leo Brash, 11, Emmett Leonard, 11, Justin Strugger, 12, and Nick Williams, 12; and from South Orange, Max Poss, 10, and Adrian Treacy, 10.

Photos Courtesy of Matt LoPiccolo and Dawn Yoselowitz