PARTNERSHIP FOR A HEALTHIER AMERICA AND THE FIRST LADY’S LET’S MOVE! INITIATIVE JOIN U.S. DARA TORRES, FITNESS EXPERT BOB HARPER AND ACTRESS CHRISTINE TAYLOR HELP USTA KICK OFF NATIONAL CHILDHOOD OBESITY AWARENESS MONTH AT US OPEN
An expert and celebrity fitness panel which included The Biggest Loser’s Bob Harper, U.S. Olympian Dara Torres and actress Christine Taylor helped the United States Tennis Association (USTA) kick off National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month on Saturday at the US Open.
To highlight the importance of healthy, active lifestyles and unveil a set of essential elements for increasing the quality and quantity of youth physical activity programming in America, the USTA, in collaboration with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), hosted the press event followed by a youth tennis exhibition at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The USTA’s youth tennis initiative is the single largest and important initiative in the history of the organization. Beginning Sept. 1 through Oct. 6 families can log on to YouthTennis.com, which will list more than a thousand events around the country where families can experience tennis.
Here’s a sampling of what the panel had to say on Saturday:
Bob Harper – Fitness expert, star of The Biggest Loser & NY Times Best-Selling Author:
“I see what’s going on in the average American household and what I really found is a common denominator. It starts at home. It’s all about what your children see in the home. Teens are spending up to seven hours a day in front of some sort of computer device. What I really try to get the parents to do is become more active. It’s just not telling your children what you want them to do; you’ve got to become a part of that solution and actually do what you want them to do.
“The biggest thing about this is, it doesn’t have to be so difficult. That’s why I’m so excited to be here today working with the USTA and talk about the fact that we can get our children active and get our families out on the courts and parks. Just getting parents more and more involved and showing them it’s not as difficult as it seems. Right now we’re looking at the rise of childhood obesity; we’re looking at type 2 diabetes in children. What I really do believe, sitting here with all these role models is, there’s hope. I really do believe we can make a change by having these conversations and you guys listening to what we have to say. There’s change out there happening and we just have to continue to get involved and also have to get our communities involved. I’m excited the USTA has brought the free tennis Play Days to children around the country.”
Dara Torres – Five-time US Olympian & Gold Medalist:
“I am an athlete and a mom. To get kids initially engaged and to get them to stick to something, you have to make it fun. You need to find a program where the coach is going to make it fun. My daughter started tennis when she was two-and-a-half. And when I went to go to the program and watch, the coach was awesome. He had squishy balls that they played with so they can’t get hurt, and he was always playing games with them. She loved it and if I didn’t get on the tennis courts and start hitting balls with her, she would be so bored so I think it’s very important to engage kids and make sure they always have fun. Kids also want to be able to experience success while being engaged. That’s why the USTA’s Youth Tennis Initiative is great for kids. They can experience that engagement and success right away. There’s not a feeling of being overwhelmed by the sport or the experience. The experience is most important.
“When sports are too serious it’s not fun for the child. Kids need to have fun. I stayed in swimming so long because I had coaches that liked to play water polo and liked to do Marco Polo in practice; not all the time, I mean I didn’t get to the Olympics by doing these things, but on Fridays after we finished a workout. We’d have relays to duke it out, they always made it fun.
“There’s a big role for coaches and parents to play in the personal and athletic lives of their children. Kids need parents who are supportive of whatever they try. When you play with the whole family, success can be shared by everyone.”
Cullen Jones – Two-time US Olympian & Gold Medalist:
“Given the title of role model, that’s the biggest thing that I want kids to understand is be athletic, go out, have a good time. Do I like playing video games? Sure, but go outside, be social; this is one of the biggest problems. I work with the initiative called Make A Splash and I get kids water safe through drowning prevention.
“The biggest thing we really want to push is being active. I never had to choose at a young age which sport I would try because I just wanted to play them all. I wanted to play soccer, I wanted to play tennis, I wanted to swim, I wanted to play basketball. My parents never made me choose; I had to make that decision for myself.
It’s a huge problem in the U.S. and we really want to see more kids learning to be active. Be healthy, choose greens. That’s one of the biggest things with my mom, I swear. She used to put Italian dressing on broccoli because I wouldn’t eat it any other way. Finding ways for kids to be healthy is very, very important. Whether it’s putting Italian dressing on broccoli or if it’s just making the right decisions.
“That is the biggest message right now. We really just want to get kids healthy.”
Christine Taylor – Noted actress, avid tennis player and tennis mom:
“My kids were born into a funny family and none of this stuff really came natural to my husband or I; we’re not professionals. I grew up loving tennis – watching it, playing it –but I didn’t have that competitive drive. So to make it fun is what it’s all about for me in my household.
“The other really great thing that I’ve found is homemade obstacle courses, just with objects in your house. Really tricking them into the physical activity, because it doesn’t feel like it when it’s fun, it’s a game. For me to be a part of the USTA and the 10 and Under initiative is really just a gift because of my love for the game.”
Kurt Kamperman – USTA Chief Executive of Community Tennis:
“We have a serious problem. We’ve got this whole group of passive sedentary kids. There’s some kids in the middle, but then a professionalization of youth sports that is causing kids to burn out and look at activity and sports as a job.
“Fortunately, not everybody’s got it wrong. We have some great examples here today; people that have got it right. Many youth sports in this country have it wrong. They are encouraging kids to specialize sooner and sooner. And really, making it all about winning too early.
“The one common theme here is that it’s really going to take all of us to really address this issue of physical inactivity and also the issue of repairing youth sports.
“The USTA is taking this very seriously. We want tennis to be the model sport. And we are putting a lot of resources behind it to make it a model sport. We changed the rules of the game on Jan. 1. Until this year, a 9-year-old boy or girl had to play on the same size court as Andy Roddick and Serena Williams. Andy’s 6-foot-2 and an average boy is 4-foot-2. Doesn’t matter, you’re going to play on the same size court, same size racquet and with the same fast balls. We changed things because we weren’t getting enough younger kids playing tennis. We figured if we didn’t get them at a younger age we wouldn’t get them at an older age.”
Sam Kass – White House Asst. Chef Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives:
“Many youth sports in this country have it wrong. They are encouraging kids to specialize sooner and sooner, and really, making it all about winning and much too early.
“The partnership with the USTA for us has been groundbreaking and unprecedented. Right now we are raising the most sedentary generation in our history. On the average an American child is spending seven and a half hours in front of a screen everyday. Seven and a half hours. As long as that continues we will not have a generation that reaches their full potential and lives those vibrant lives that they deserve.”
Larry Soler – President and Chief Executive Officer, Partnership of Healthy America:
“One in three kids are over-weight or obese today. We know that every kid should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. The reality is 32 percent of elementary school students and 29 percent of high school students are getting that. So we’re not doing a good enough job. We can do better and we must do better.
“The inactivity that we’re facing and the obesity means that kids are going to suffer more deadly diseases like diabetes. More than one in three kids born in the year 2000 are going to develop that within their lifetime. Kids don’t get the benefits from physical activity, the mental well-being, mental health, improved academics. If you think about it, what’s physical activity? It’s one of the few things we do that helps us stay healthy; it helps us feel better, happier, improve our overall outlook and performance. It’s free. But still, it’s a big challenge.
“PHA was created in 2010 to help bring an end to the childhood obesity crisis. We work with our honorary chair, First Lady Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move program to develop voluntary brands with companies in the private sector to help us solve this problem. We have over 30 organizations that have signed on to work with us.
Michael Bergeron – Ph.D.,Chair, National Youth Sports Health and Safety Institute:
“This is truly an inactivity epidemic. Your physical activity is the biggest determinant of your wellness and frankly your risk of dying as an adult. So it’s imperative that people are regularly active for so many reasons. If we’re going to have youth sports be part of this solution it has to be accessible and we have to break down the barriers and be more inclusive and not exclusive and come up with some creative opportunities to make sports available to all kids. The key thing to make that work then is to have that key entry point and be a workable entry point and especially at the early parts of developing an athlete. So that is the beauty of what the USTA is doing with 10 and Under Tennis. It’s changing the entry point. It’s changing how kids are introduced to the sport so that they are more likely to stay with it.”
Tim Morehouse: Three-time US Olympian in fencing:
“For me, I just got back from my third Olympic Games and my background is also education. I was a seventh-grade teacher for three years at Washington Heights Public School. I remember the kids would come in with Skittles and Diet Coke for breakfast and the lunch at our schools they were barely eating. They had gym twice a week and a lot of the girls were sitting on the sidelines. I think we have a lot of issues to tackle.
“I was someone that grew up playing baseball and luckily my school had fencing. I saw a sign that said, ‘Join the fencing team, get out of gym.’ (laughter) That’s how it started. I got a C+ in fencing my first semester as well. I somehow made the Olympic team after that.”
Magic Murray is Golden in London, Del Po takes Bronze
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Andy Murray earned the biggest win of his career over Roger Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, in the Olympic final on home turf at Wimbledon to earn the much deserved gold medal in an emotional victory. The raucous crowd urged their man on in their home Olympic games as he delivered a confident, methodical and smashing win over the man many have called the king of grass, avenging his loss in the Wimbledon final one month ago.
Murray broke twice in the first set and the second break closed the set out at 6-2. Then, he proceeded to roll an entire set of games in a row on Federer in the second. The key breakthrough came as Federer was unable to break Murray during a very long game early in the second set. In the third, the tennis was a bit more closely matched, but it was Murray who was top class, breaking midway through the third and then proceeding to confidently serve it out. He closed out the match with three smashing aces that Federer couldn’t answer.
Murray’s play was at his highest level. He was moving well, volleying brilliantly, including some extremely nifty flick volleys, and hitting from the baseline with excellence. While he did not serve the highest percentage, he got the aces when he needed them and managed to stave off any break points Federer received.
It was quite a different Roger Federer from the one who beat Murray in four sets just one month ago at Wimbledon on the grass. One has to wonder if his marathon match against Juan Martin Del Potro in the semis took something out of him, but either way his play was stuck in third gear most of the match with too many errors and a failure to capitalize on the chances he did have.
For Federer, it is a tough loss and a big blow to him as he was gunning hard for an Olympic gold in singles, one of the few accomplishments he has not achieved in his career and something that clearly meant a lot to him. Even in defeat, he remained sportsmanlike and still gets a well-deserved silver medal.
As for “Magic Murray”, he gets a much needed confidence boost and hopefully relieves a great deal of pressure. Even though the Olympics isn’t a grand slam event, the quality of the field and the tennis he had to play to win Gold was very similar, as was the feeling around the importance of the event. He will have a chance at the US Open and beyond as he got past his rivals Federer and Djokovic. You really have to hand it to the British crowd for pulling him and Team Great Britain through in the home Olympics.
In order to make the final, Federer beat Alejandro Falla in three tough sets, Julien Benneteau (who didn’t trouble him this time like he did at Wimbledon), Denis Istomin, last American standing John Isner, and Del Potro in a marathon match 3-6, 7-6, 19-17. Both Del Potro and Federer had chances to win in the third set, and Federer choked away a lot of break points but finally converted and managed to pull it off. After his victory over Del Potro, Federer was choked up during his post match interview while Del Potro walked off the court amid tears and apparently cried for many hours more.
Murray beat Stan Wawrinka, Jarkko Nieminen, Marcos Baghdatis, Nicolas Almagro and confidently handled Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-5 to make the final. Murray dueled serves with Djokovic and broke him at the end of both sets to win. Both guys played some skillful tennis and expended a lot of energy in the semi.
In the bronze match, Juan Martin Del Potro took it over Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-4. Showing little signs of fatigue or depression after playing two long matches the day before, including a 19-17 third set loss to Federer in the singles semi. At four hours and change, it was a record setting match in length. Del Potro’s victory assured that there has been a medalist from South America in men’s singles the past three Olympic Games.
Djokovic will certainly be disappointed after two tough losses back to back and failing to repeat as bronze medalist, but he still did well to make it as far as he did. Djokovic also survived a third round test against the tenacious Lleyton Hewitt, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. Hewitt nearly knocked him off and turned back the clock.
In the men’s doubles, the Bryan Brothers took the gold and completed the career slam over the exciting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra, who took silver. Another French team of Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet took the bronze medal over David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. Tsonga played a lot of tennis himself, including a 25-23 third set win over Milos Raonic in singles, the second most games in a set behind the epic Isner-Mahut match at Wimbledon a couple of years back.
The two French teams produced plenty of flair in the 2012 Olympics and their winning celebrations were quite a thing to behold as were many of their shots. http://morganemoulin.tumblr.com/post/28693623174/jo-wilfried-tsonga-and-michael-llodra (Tsonga/Llodra celebration)
Lastly, in mixed doubles, Murray and his partner, the young and talented 18-year-old British player, Laura Robson, fell in a tight match to Belarusians Max Mirnyi and Vika Azarenka, who were thrilled with their gold medal. Azarenka also won the bronze in women’s singles, while Mirnyi was the flag bearer for Belarus and played in what he says will be his final Olympics. It is worth noting that the team of Murray/Robson was a mixed doubles wild card while Mirnyi/Azeranka were the top seeds, so it was a good result for both teams. Americans Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond took the bronze over Germans Christopher Kas and Sabine Lisicki.
Murray (gold and silver), Mike Bryan (gold and bronze), Serena Williams (singles gold and ladies doubles gold) and Azarenka (gold and bronze) all walked away with more than one medal in the Olympic tennis event.
CitiOpen Interview: Michelle Larcher de Brito
Steve Fogleman, TennisEastCoast.com
Tonight, 19-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito will face crowd favorite Sloane Stephens in an attempt to book a spot in the CitiOpen quarterfinals. I sat down with her on Monday, following her main draw first round match against Mirjana Lucic.
How are you holding up in the DC summer heat?
I am fortunately used to the heat, because I live in Florida.
On beating Lucic in three sets:
She started playing well. I slowed down a little bit. I managed to regain myself, cool down a little bit and stay strong in the third set.
My first serve for some reason didn’t want to work today. So, I have to be strong on the second serve or the match isn’t going to go my way.
On the surface at CitiOpen:
Hardcourt’s my favorite. I got used to it. I really like the Deco surface.
What’s it like growing up next door to a tennis powerhouse like Spain?
I played against a lot of Spaniards. They have a great game, lots of spin. I actually grew up and played until I was 9 on clay courts, before I moved to America. That may have given me a little more experience.
Weren’t you trained or coached by Nick Bollettieri?
My dad is my coach. He’s always been my coach. He never stopped doing it. My dad has supported me from day one until now. I’m really happy to practice with my dad and that he’s my full-time coach.
After ten years, is Bradenton home now?
I love Portugal, and I do miss home sometimes, but I don’t see myself living anywhere else beside Florida. I just love it there. Bradenton is so relaxed. There’s no traffic and the beaches are five minutes away. Everything is so close by. It’s a great place to live.
Grunting is in the news again. Any thoughts?
That happened to me (getting called out for grunting) three years ago. My tennis had been down. I think I’m playing better now. It is behind me now already. I just want my family there, my team to support me.
I love Washington. This is a great tournament. I love it here, so I really hope to do well.
Did you get a chance to catch any Olympics coverage?
I did. As soon as I finished my practice the day before, I went and turned on the TV to watch the opening ceremony. I watched the fireworks and went to bed a little later because I wanted to see the end.
Olympic Tennis Preview: Men’s Singles
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
Just a few weeks after Wimbledon, the top tennis players are back at the All England Club vying not for trophies but for Olympic medals in the 2012 London Olympic games. In the 2008 Beijing Games, Rafael Nadal took home the gold, Fernando Gonzalez took home the silver and Novak Djokovic the bronze. As Gonzalez is retired and Nadal had to pull out with knee problems, we will have some new medalists. Here is a preview of the draw. (http://2012.itftennis.com/olympics/results/men%27s-singles.aspx)
Top 8 Seeds:
1: Roger Federer
2: Novak Djokovic
3: Andy Murray
4: David Ferrer
5: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
6: Tomas Berdych
7: Janko Tipsarevic
8: Juan Martin Del Potro
1st round match ups to watch:
Roger Federer vs. Alejandro Falla
The Wimbledon champion will start his quest for gold in singles (he won the gold in doubles with Stanislas Wawrinka in the 2008 Games) against the man who pushed him to five sets in the 2010 Wimbledon tournament. While Federer will be a heavy favorite, there is always a chance for a scare.
Denis Istomin vs. Fernando Verdasco
Istomin reached the fourth round of Wimbledon while Verdasco has been up and down recently. FerVer is higher ranked but Istomin will have a good chance in this match up.
David Nalbandian vs. Janko Tipsarevic
Nalby and Tipsy will face a rematch after Tipsarevic beat Nalbandian in the first round of Wimbledon this year. Tipsarevic has also been on fire recently, winning Stuttgart and reaching the final of Gstaad. While that was on clay, it is still a good indication of his current form and why he will be a favorite in this match up. That being said, Nalbandian is always a threat on grass.
Bernard Tomic vs. Kei Nishikori
A couple of the most hyped young players in the game, Tomic and Nishikori have had polar career turns recently with Tomic having a very bad year and Nishikori having a good but inconsistent year. Tomic, who had a masterful run at Wimbledon last year, has not made a quarterfinal in any tournament since April and he bombed out his first match at both tournaments he played on grass, Eastbourne and Wimbledon. For his part, Nishikori is 20-12 on the year and reached the Round of 32 at Wimbledon and the Quarterfinals in Newport. He will be a favorite against Tomic, but both guys still have a lot of potential.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Andy Murray
If Andy Murray is to do well in his home nations Olympics, he will have to get past Stanislas Wawrinka in the opening round. Murray made the final of Wimbledon this year while Wawrinka will be the flag bearer for Switzerland in the opening ceremony. Wawrinka is not the most comfortable on grass but he is still a dangerous player who could cause problems for Murray.
David Goffin vs. Juan Monaco
One of the most intriguing young players in the game right now, Goffin will face Monaco, who just broke into the top ten and is in top form going into London. Goffin reached the Round of 32 at Wimbledon and the Round of 16 at the French Open. Monaco, who won Hamburg and was a finalist in Stuttgart will be a favorite, but Goffin could pull an upset.
Wimbledon Champ Federer will likely be able to reach the quarters, but to do so he will have to get past some old rivals. After Falla, he would draw Julien Benneteau, who pushed him to five sets at this year’s Wimbledon. He could also see Mikhail Youzhny, and could then play Istomin or Verdasco in the third round. His other two options are Atlanta finalist Gilles Muller and Adrian Ungur of Romania.
Tipsaervic could face Phillip Petzschner, who replaced Ivo Karlovic, or Lukas Lacko in the second round, and then could play a big third round clash with John Isner. Isner will face veteran serve and volleyer Olivier Rochus and then the winner of Lu Yen-Hsun and Malek Jaziri, neither of which should be too hard for Big John. The winner of that match makes the Quarters.
David Ferrer, now Spain’s top ranked participant, opens up against the young Vasek Pospisil of Canada. He would then face the winner of Philip Kohlschreiber vs. Blaz Kavic, a couple of guys who have been playing a lot of clay recently. Ferrer could face a dangerous third round clash with Nishikori. Nishikori will have to get through Tomic and Radek Stepanek or Nikolay Davydenko to make the date with Ferrer.
Del Potro opens up against Ivan Dodig and could face Andreas Seppi, who has had a great year and possibly Gilles Simon in the third round. Also lurking is the young Grigor Dimitrov, who has a game that does well on grass. Dimitrov opens up against Lukasz Kubot of Poland and then would face Simon or Mikhail Kukushkin.
Novak Djokovic faces Fabio Fognini in the opener and could get a strong looking Andy Roddick in what would be a second round blockbuster. If he gets through that, Marin Cilic is his likely third round opponent. Keep an eye on wily veterans Lleyton Hewitt and Jurgen Melzer, who spent a week in Vegas before the Olympics.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga starts off against a recently top performing Thomaz Bellucci and then could face the dangerous Milos Raonic in the second round. After that, he could play Monaco, who, after Goffin, will face the winner of Dmitry Tursunov vs. Feliciano Lopez.
The home favorite Murray will get Somdev Devvarman of India or Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the second round after facing Wawrinka. Another rematch with Richard Gasquet could be in the cards for the third round. Go Soeda and Marcos Baghdatis, the flag bearer for Cyprus, are also in this part of the draw as is Dutchman Robin Haase.
A slumping Tomas Berdych, who lost in the first round to Ernest Gulbis at Wimbledon, will open against Steve Darcis of Belgium then could face Ryan Harrison in the second round. Rival Nicolas Almagro is lurking in the third round. Harrison starts off with Santiago Giraldo, while Almagro faces Viktor Troicki and then either Carlos Berlocq or Alex Bogomolov.
Dark Horse: Grigor Dimitrov
The young Bulgarian is finally coming into his own and recently reached the semis in Bastad and Gstaad on clay. He has a game that plays well on grass and also reached the semis of Queen’s Club. He is 18-12 on the year and has a pretty lucky draw, as Gilles Simon hasn’t really been performing well recently and Del Potro is rather inconsistent. He has a nice shot at the quarterfinals at least.
Federer d. Tipsarevic
Ferrer d. Dimitrov
Murray d. Almagro
Djokovic d. Monaco
Federer d. Ferrer
Murray d. Djokovic
Federer d. Murray
In what would be a rematch of the Wimbledon final, and a second chance for Andy Murray to best Federer in best of five sets in front of the home fans.
3rd place match:
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Djokovic will attempt to repeat as Bronze medalist.
The Kastles swept the sets last night to extend their winning streak to 26. It was a team effort, and there was no let down after Venus left the sold out Kastles Stadium following her two victorious sets.
Leander Paes and Anastasia Rodionova took the mixed doubles match in their last pre-London Olympic warm-ups.
Even Doubles legend Aisam Qureshi couldn’t stop the Kastles.
Finally, Bobby Reynolds finished off Nick Monroe and the Kansas City Explorers.
Now that Anastasia Rodionova and Leander Paes have left for the Olympics, it’s time for Treat Huey and Edina Gallovits-Hall to step up as the Kastles ramp up to keep their perfect streak alive heading into the postseason. They will be joined by the newest Kastle, Raquel Kops-Jones, who was drafted over the weekend.
Huey is an Alexandria, Virginia native and grew up a few miles down the Potomac from Kastles Stadium at The Wharf. I interviewed Treat and his doubles partner Dom Inglot two weeks ago in Newport.
Last night, Serena Williams was scheduled to be in attendance at the Washington Kastles home match against the Kansas City Explorers, but decided against testing her back before London 2012. Venus Williams substituted for her younger sister and she did not disappoint in any way. After posting back-to-back 5-1 wins in womens singles and doubles to give the home team an insurmountable lead, Williams was warmly embraced by the sellout crowd and attracted so many well wishers all the way to her ride to the airport that she must have cut the flight close. You can catch that scene at the end of the video below.
Earlier, in a pre-match press conference, Wiliams was asked what she thought about grunting. She said “tonight you’ll see the intensity level go and up and down, the voices will go up and down, in the crowd and on the court. It’s just tennis.”
Venus Williams is about much more than just tennis. Pro tennis players rarely make an impact on our lives the way that Venus has. What else can explain the intense attachment that the fans feel for her?