By Mario Sarmento
You’ve heard of kids up north praying for snow days? Well, in Key Biscayne, they look forward to Sony Open Kids Day, which took place Tuesday in the Tennis Center at Crandon Park.
Children came with school groups or their parents to participate in a clinic and watch matches. The clinic was held at the Grandstand, where kids ages 7-14 from elementary and middle schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties received a special treat, as they lined up to hit with ATP and WTA Tour professionals.
WTA players Lauren Davis and Ashleigh Barty took the court first, and ATP players Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah followed them after a 10-minute break.
“It’s just exciting to be able to inspire the kids,” said Davis said. “We’ve given them a really, really good platform to be able to do that, and just maximize and utilize their potential.”
Aside from getting a chance to hit with their heroes, the kids danced to the thumping dance music that played over the loudspeakers, and clamored for free prizes that were given out like tennis ball keychains, headbands, and balls hit by the players into the stands.
Rhino and giraffe from the Zoo Squad also made an appearance, high-fiving children as they took their cuts with the racquet, and then showed their dance moves in front of the pumped-up crowd.
Twelve-year-old Matthew Aponte plays on the Rockway Middle School tennis team, and he came to the event with his team.
He enjoyed his experience hitting with the pros, saying, “You get to have a chance of hitting with someone who actually knows how to play good, and can actually hit the ball back, and keeps you in the rally.
Real estate agent Marcelle McCalla Audant found out about the event on the Sony Open website, and he brought his two daughters, who play tennis on the weekends. It was their first time at the tournament.
“We love it,” he said. “It’s a nice environment for kids.”
Audant’s 11-year-old daughter Myriam, who attends Sandpiper Elementary, said, “It was fun. It was kind of scary at first because there were a lot of people watching me.”
For Cabal and Farrah, it was a chance to interact not just with their youngest fans, but possibly with a future generation of tennis players.
“It’s awesome to be able to hit with them and get them into the sport,” Farah said. “And hopefully they’ll start getting serious with the sport and get better.”
Cabal was impressed with the children’s passion, as they screamed and cheered with delight for the entire hour.
“I tell you, I enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “It’s crazy, this environment over here, was one of the best ones I’ve ever done, so it was really good.”