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July 8, 2009 > Fremont Tennis Center a hub of activity

Fremont Tennis Center a hub of activity

By Gary van den Heuvel

While the eyes of millions of tennis fans around the world were focused on the victories of Serena Williams and Roger Federer at Wimbledon last weekend, the Fremont Tennis Center on Stevenson Boulevard hosted its own tournament, to a much smaller but no less interested audience of spectators and players.

The United States Tennis Association's (USTA) sanctioned Fremont Tennis Center Junior Novice tournament attracted around 115 players separated into five age groups (16 and under, 14 and under, 12 and under, 10 and under and 8 and under) and divided by gender.

The event was structured as a round-robin format in which each player would play five matches - two on Saturday (July 4) and three on Sunday. Each player received a medal for participation, and there were no tournament "champions."

"We want them to be able to play a lot of tennis, we don't care if they win or lose," said USTA official Jean Hassoun. Hassoun, who was named USTA tournament referee of the year in 2008, oversees all of the Fremont junior tournaments put on by Tennis Operations Supervisor Jeff Gonce. Gonce puts on four tournaments a year at the Fremont Tennis Center, and the 18-court complex (which also features sand volleyball courts) is rented out for about a dozen other events during the year.

Besides the tournaments, the Center is usually brimming with activity, especially during the summer. Currently, the FTC is running full- and half-day camps throughout the end of August. The full-day camps are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for participants aged 5 to 16 and cost $189 for a week. Half-days go from 9 a.m. until noon and the cost is $129.

Aside from tennis drills and practice, cross-training activities such as tennis baseball, Frisbee golf, soccer and tennis scavenger hunts are offered. Kids are placed into groups based on age, ability and friendships.

Fremont Tennis Center also offers a Summer Junior Team Tennis program with practices from Monday through Thursday and Friday afternoon matches against other teams. Carol Conidi can be contacted at www.cjc10s@aol.com for anyone curious about the program.

The kids playing in the tournament, most of whom have traveled from all over the Bay Area and in some cases further than that, have a lot in common when it comes to their interest in the game.

"It's fun to hit, to play with your friends," said 13-year-old Simon Senan, who played in the 16 and under boys bracket. His older brother Adam, who just started playing in tournaments this year though he's been playing tennis for much of his life, and last year played on the JV team at St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco (and who also competed in the 16 and under bracket, though he didn't play against his brother), agrees.

"It's fun, and you get to meet a lot of new people," he said. "You can play competitively, or for fun."

14-year-old Fremont resident and FTC regular Sean Keogh, playing in the 16 and under bracket, likes the mentally challenging aspects of the game.

"When I'm down, and know I can win, I start thinking how I can play better, and I start doing that, and it starts coming out on the court," said Keogh. "I've been in numerous situations when I've been down 5-1 and was able to come back."

Keogh starts high school at Kennedy in September and anticipates going out for the tennis team.

Allison Cooper-Meinert is a former college (UCLA) and professional player who had traveled from Fresno to watch her two sons Dakota (Boys 14) and Daly (Boys 10) and daughter Savanna (Girls 10) play.

"They like that it's not so much of a team sport, that they're in charge of how they're playing," said Allison. "They meet great friends at the club they play at, and they like the travel. They like to go to these tournaments and we always make something fun out of it. We're going to the City [San Francisco] tonight."

Cooper-Meinert sees youth tennis as something that is losing popularity in America. "It's pretty weak right now," she said. "In Fresno, where we're from, it's very weak. The schools provide sports that you don't have to pay a lot for. Sports like tennis and golf, you have to pay more for equipment and private lessons."

Tennis Operations Supervisor Jeff Gonce sees the popularity of youth tennis in Fremont as "steadily increasing." Gonce, who has been a tennis player and a coach, spends more of his time at the center focusing on administrative duties. Much of the coaching and teaching is done by Joe Grech, who sums up what many tennis players feel about the game when he says "Tennis is the sport of a lifetime. It comprises all aspects of athleticism in one game."

"I'm having a hard time finding enough open time to watch the courts, that's how busy it's been," said Gonce.

The Fremont Tennis Center, located at 1110 Stevenson Blvd. next to Central Park and walking distance from Mission Boulevard, is open to the general public for a nominal fee when tournaments and special events are not taking place. The phone number is 510-790-5510 and a link to the Center can be found at www.fremont.gov.
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