BY: KENT PIERCE
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The next Serena or Nadal might be somewhere in New Haven just waiting to be discovered.
Monday, Governor Dannel Malloy was in the Elm City unveiling a new program aimed at getting kids playing tennis.
They call it a free tennis lesson, but it’s much more than that. You don’t need to be a tennis player to know the importance of exercise.
“You want to stay healthy for the rest of your life so it’s good to stay active,” said 9th grader Ify Obuekwe.
And who knows that better than last year’s top ranked junior tennis player in the world?
“I went through a lot of stuff when I was younger,” said pro tennis player Taylor Townsend. “Tennis was a way to release those emotions I had as a kid I guess.”
Rising star Taylor Townsend also knows the importance of having a mentor. That’s the other theme for the hundreds of New Haven School kids.
“Mentoring is a big part of what we do, and we’re very proud that this is our third year in a row supporting the New Haven Open at Yale Tennis Tournament,” said James Bzydra, Niagara Bank Vice-President.
First Niagara sponsors the New Haven open and Monday’s free lesson day, and it works with the Governor’s Prevention Partnership to keep kids performing on the court and in the classroom.
“Make sure we graduate a much higher percentage of our children, particularly from our 31 low performing districts,” said Gov. Malloy. “That’s what we’re doing here in New Haven.”
“I have some great mentors,” said Townsend. “As a teenager, I feel I know everything, so it’s great to have people to talk to and look up to.”
For all those New Haven teenagers who feel like they know everything, a mentor can be almost anyone. For a rising tennis superstar like Taylor Townsend, she says her mentors are former tennis greats Zina Garrison and Billie Jean King.