Plainfield youth tennis players prepare for ‘opportunity of a lifetime' at U.S. Open

The group was hand selected by the USTA to demonstrated their junior development program in front of thousands of fans

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Young athletes from Plainfield will soon travel to Flushing, New York for the opportunity of a lifetime to play on one of the world's biggest tennis stages.

"We’re going to the U.S. Open, and we’re going to play on Arthur Ashe Court to demonstrate how much progress [we've made] and [that] anybody at any age can learn to play tennis," said 11-year-old Camryn Henders.

"I’m most looking forward to playing," said 8-year-old Ally Brown. "I am pretty nervous."

Brown and Henders are two of 24 young athletes, between the ages of 8 and 12, making the trip. They're part of a junior development program at Five Star Tennis Club in Plainfield.

The program uses modified equipment to help young players learn basic tennis skills.

"The goal is for everyone to have success at their age and level. Through [using] a smaller court, and a ball that doesn’t bounce as high, they can experience success faster. Therefore, they fall in love with the game, stick with the game longer," said Coach Katie Finke, the director of junior development at Five Star.

On Monday, the group will demonstrate a "red ball rally," which uses smaller racquets and nets, in front of thousands of fans ahead of a professional match.

"Our goal is to assist the USTA and help show people how easy it is for kids to rally with the proper equipment, the proper court size," said tennis pro, and co-owner, Robin Henders.

"If you can get a group of kids out at Arthur Ashe stadium, you’ve probably built some lifetime tennis players and lifetime tennis fans," said Henders.

This is Five Star's third invitation from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to participate in on-court demonstrations. The previous two invitations were before the COVID-19 pandemic. This group consists of almost entirely new players.

Henders believes his club is the only Midwest program invited.

"We go out pre-match as the fans are coming in. As they're setting up the court for the match, the kids go out and rally. The people coming in get to watch them play tennis, some extra entertainment. The kids are able to stick around for the entire day, go court to court, soak it all in," said Henders.

Henders says interest in tennis skyrocketed during and after the pandemic. He hopes his young athletes will prove to fans tennis is accessible to anyone.

"The beauty of this modified court size and equipment is it actually works for everybody, even adults."

Five Star kids will have their moment to shine on Labor Day Monday at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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