Blake gave personal tips to several players about how to improve their game, specifically schooling them on the basic forehand, backhand, serve and volley techniques that have helped him achieve success.
“I’m just trying to give them basic fundamentals – move your feet, get set up early – mainly I’m just trying to stress that people have fun out here,” Blake said. “People get caught up and lost in the fact that some people make it a profession, but you have to look at it as a good thing for people to get out and be active, and for these kids, to have a good time.”
Throughout the day in the shadow of the U.S. National Tennis Center, the courts were packed with youngsters cycling through different stations where singles and doubles elimination games and drills were used to help kids practice their techniques right alongside Blake, who ran through the drills just like everybody else.
At the end of the clinic, there was a challenge to hit a tennis ball through a two-foot wide ring into a net, a challenge only two of the participants – Alik Jackson and Daniel Hristodorob – were able to best. Both Jackson and Hristodorob won a set of U.S.T.A. tickets from Coca Cola for their achievement.
CityParks Tennis, a program run by the City Parks Foundation, provides lessons to kids of all ages and at all levels of play through its partnerships with Chase Bank, LaCoste and Coca Cola. The program is designed to make the sport less cost-prohibitive for interested young players.
The need for the CityParks Tennis program was highlighted at the event when John Ellis and his wife Dr. Meryem Bencheikh approached Blake asking him to advocate for lower court fees at New York City’s public parks.
“I wish there was a family pass, like a New York City family pass,” Ellis said. “There are seven of us, and it’s too expensive for us to enjoy tennis.
A representative of CityParks Tennis who was nearby when the couple approached Blake, agreed that court prices are cost-prohibitive, and said that is just one reason the foundation has teamed up with big names like LaCoste to sponsor their program in hopes of making the sport more accessible to youth from all economic backgrounds.
Blake told the couple that he didn’t know how, but that he would do what he can to help.
“The USTA is making a push to get young children involved,” Blake said. “Obviously it’s been a long time since an American won there. I’ll certainly advocate that if I can.”