Arthur Ashe Kids Day

Aug 31, 2009

Arthur Ashe Kids Day has been a tradition for the unofficial start of the US Open, a chance for the players, comedians and singers to entertain the younger tennis fans and raise some money for charity. This took place on the 29th August this year, two days before the tournament actually gets underway.

This year, the rather soggy weather over New York dampened the morning activities which were unfortunately cancelled. These were to include interactive games, clinics, hair braiding, face painting; all those messy, fun things that kids enjoy doing.

Last year, Stanley Tucci umpired a rather anarchical match between Roddick and Djokovic. It involved quite a bit of cheating, score-fiddling, and a few of Djokovic’s well-known and not always well-loved (by the players he targets anyway) impersonations. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic whacked balls at targets to raise money for their charities, and Demi Lavato provided the more lyrical entertainment.

This year the day went along a similar vein complete with big names in the world of tennis, money being raised for the players’ charitable foundations, and a teenage heartthrob performing live.

There’s some sweet pictures of Federer and Roddick enjoying the laid back atmosphere of the day, Roger in his monogrammed black jacket and Andy in his usual Sunday golfing attire. It was a nice thing to see; two great champions looking fresh-faced and ready for another potential loggerhead for the title they both desire. There’s a lot of belief that this tournament may end in the same head-to-head as Wimbledon boiled to. Fingers crossed hey?….

Serena Williams was also there, looking immensely at home in the US and comfortable with the excitable crowd as she racked up some money for charity.

The band Honour Society (I have to admit I had no idea who they are, although my little sister assured me they are ‘pretty cool’) sent the pre-teen crowd into throes of excitement, alongside female singer Jordin Sparks (once again I had no idea, but after conferring with my pop-star correspondent I can safely report that ‘oh yeah, she’s pretty cool too’).

The silver screen was represented in the comedic genius that is Will Ferrell (umpiring a match decked out in a James Blake style bald cap and sweatband) and by the look of the pictures on the US Open website, managed to sit on a ball girl trying to get down from the umpire chair. Tricky things those massive high chairs. He also played a doubles match with andy Murray, who looked at ease with the American crowd, unlike the fans he leaves behind in England.

I’m starting to think this is the way that all grand slams of the tennis seasons should start. Some say it’s cheesy and very American; but that’s what it is and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think it will probably give tennis a good image boost. All these players do so much for charities – whether they be their own or for others’ – and the majority of it goes unnoticed, uncelebrated, and without interaction from the fans that adore them. Days like the Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day could give them a chance to meet and entertain those younger fans who may not have the chance to see them at the Grand Slams.

It may also take that veneer of ‘taking things way too seriously’ which some Grand Slams can emanate (naming no names but looking directly at Wimbledon).

If it’s raining and you’re feeling miserably as September comes likes a juggernaut towards us, then this should help to lighten your mood: video footage of Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick larking about with a rather rule-ignorant Tucci at last year’s Arthur Ashe Kids Day:

If you’re ever able to head over this event in the next couple of years, I would take it, it looks like a day to remembered.


-          SophieG


Written by: SophieG

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