By Fernie Ruano Jr.
It’s a breezy and sunny mid-morning at the Tennis Center of Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, but Roy Horovitz, the tiny kid with the oversized racquet and baggy gray shorts to complement a left-handed backhand, is working his grip and straddling the 60-foot, yellow-marked baseline on Court A with the precision of an old pro, not a 7-year-old who has been playing organized tennis for two years.
In just his second tournament, Israel-born Horovitz, a Miami Country Day student, is turning heads, along with hundreds of area youth players participating in the 2014 Miami Junior Tennis Cup, part of the Youth Sports Championship series being played at the 2014 Sony Open Tennis. The tournament is part of an initiative created by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez to increase youth participation in sports.
Intermediate and advanced junior players, ages 7-11, have been competing over the last week on the outside courts throughout the Tennis Center with two 16-player divisions shooting for the Mayor’s Cup. Both the semifinals and finals of the USTA-sponsored event will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. and Noon, respectively.
“I like it, the competition. It’s been a lot of fun playing here and playing games is what I love,” said Horovitz, wiping sweat beads running down his cheek. He went on to credit his kick serve and volleys for an early-morning victory on Friday.
“It’s so important to give these kids all these options to come out and have fun and play tennis. It’s a chance for them to stay active and interact with a lot of other kids," said Cathy Nordlund, of the Florida USTA.
“If I get to the finals I can be a part of the (trophy) ceremony, so that’s even more fun. I’m very happy with the way I played.”
With his mother Inbal Horovitz watching intently, Horovitz, clad in a neon orange, gray-sleeved tee and aqua blue sneakers delighted a crowd with a combination of left-handed forehands and two-handed backhands. “He’s very competitive, but a special kid,” said Inbal, who hits with her son on occasion.
In charge of the first-year tournament has been Program Coordinator Cathy Nordlund, who has been with USTA Florida Tennis for a decade and has been bouncing around from court to court taking pictures and overseeing the action while stressing the importance of sportsmanship and participation.
“We’re very excited about being here,” said Nordlund, a Miami native who fell for tennis at the urging of friends after her 50th birthday. “It’s really a thrill for all the kids and parents, and all about the tennis for them.”
Nordlund is driven to see the tournament grow and impact the lives of kids across diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. “It’s so important to give these kids all these options to come out and have fun and play tennis. It’s a chance for them to stay active and interact with a lot of other kids.”