at Fed Cup in San Antonio
Arthur Kapetanakis | April 21, 2019
SAN ANTONIO – Fed Cup has sparked the imagination of an already vibrant tennis community in San Antonio, as the local residents have extended a warm welcome to Team USA and its collection of world-class tennis talent.
On Saturday, Freeman Coliseum became the first venue in the state of Texas to host Fed Cup play.
“San Antonians take great pride in that,” said San Antonio Tennis Association president Cari Richardson. “We love that we’re hosting the Fed Cup in San Antonio, for the first time in Texas.”
Perhaps no one is more excited than the San Antonio youth, who were wide-eyed at the opportunity to see some of their tennis idols in person. But San Antonio’s next generation of tennis greats got more than that—roughly 150 local students at Friday’s Net Generation Kids’ Day event had the chance to rally with members of Team USA.ADVERTISEMENT
Sonya Kenin, Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula made an appearance to chat and play with a group from San Antonio Sports’ “i play!” after-school program on Friday. San Antonio Sports, which played a major role in bringing Fed Cup to the city, continued to collaborate with the USTA during the week.
“I think it was a great experience. All three of us had fun,” said Brady. “It’s always good to see young kids out playing tennis, trying to do what we can for the kids.”
The pros were joined by two top American juniors, Ashlyn Krueger and Vivian Ovrootsky, who also hit the Net Generation courts. The high school freshmen were selected to travel to San Antonio to train alongside the senior team, under the tutelage of USTA national coaches Jamea Jackson and Jean Desdunes, and join in on the Fed Cup festivities.
Another 100 San Antonio children attended a second Kids’ Day event on Saturday, with a lucky few selected to warm up the Freeman Coliseum court for Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens ahead of the day’s play.
"Fed Cup has definitely drawn people together,” said Mike Carter, director of Net Generation strategy for USTA Texas. “There’s been a lot of fun and energy because Fed Cup’s here. We’ve had lots of volunteers from San Antonio and all of the various organizations.”
Carter helped run both Kids’ Day events, his infectious energy mirroring that of the participants on 14 kid-sized courts set up in a warehouse adjacent to the Freeman Coliseum. Some of the Net Generation players are also directly involved with the Fed Cup event, serving as ball kids and flag bearers on court.
USTA Net Generation ambassador Jayden McCareins was also on hand, making the five-hour trip from the Dallas area to be a part of the fun. In her ambassador role, Jayden got to interview Kenin, Brady and Pegula about their off-court hobbies and on-court habits.
The kids were the only ones who got a chance to rub shoulders with Team USA. On Tuesday evening, U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi joined a group of 130 women at McFarland Tennis Center for a celebration of women in tennis, mingling and playing doubles with the attendees.
As the focus shifted to the main event on Saturday afternoon, San Antonio’s tennis community went from playing to cheering, as they made their voices heard in the stands.
On Easter Sunday, their support will be needed again, as Team USA’s Fed Cup fate hangs in the balance. What was a best-of-five tie has now condensed into a one-day, best-of-three battle. If the U.S. can emerge from the drama with two match victories over Switzerland, their place in the 2020 Fed Cup World Group will be secured.