Wednesday was exhibition and love of tennis day at the Atlanta Tennis Championships.Â Â It started with Nick Bollettieri and his associates giving a clinic for kids.Â It had to be a thrill for the kids to get pointers from someone who has trained so many great players over the years.Â I just wish he had taught serve/volley rather than baseline play.Â Tennis has been lucky to have several non-players who have added so much to the game.Â Â Â In my opinion, the top three contributors in spreading the love of the game have been Vic Braden, Bud Collins, and Nick Bollettieri.
Special Pops athletes and volunteers
The second group of exhibitioners was the athletes from the Special Pops group in Atlanta.Â Special Pops is an organization that provides tennis experience for adults and children with intellectual disabilities.Â Over 350 athletes are involved from basic skills training to tournament play throughout the South and East.Â If you want to be reminded about the pure joy of hitting a tennis ball, come see some of these athletes play.
Last but not least was a demonstration match by some of the great wheelchair athletes in the Atlanta area.Â I can attest to the ability of these players since I was schooled earlier this year by one of the demonstration players in a run/roll doubles match earlier this year.Â Â Â Â Their love of the game is shown by the dedication and extra hard work it takes to reach their amazing level of play.
Oh yeah.Â There were a few professional athletes playing on Wednesday.Â Not sure if it was the heat and humidity (above 90 for both while sun was out), but play was inconsistent.Â Taylor Dent struggled with his serve early but came on to win with a 6-0 third set against Horacio Zeballos.Â Zeballos handled the heat early but seemed to be unnerved when wind picked up early in third set when it appeared a storm was brewing.Â John Isner did not get going until middle of second set (same as in his doubles match on Monday).Â Gilles Muller (Isnerâ€™s opponent) was the most consistent player.Â He actually out played Isner but went down in tough third set tiebreaker.
The final match between Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri was played after the sun went down but still was inconsistent.Â Mardy totally dominated the first set.Â Robby picked his game up in the second as Mardy dropped off some.Â However, Mardy kept playing great defense (he seemed to be everywhere), and was able to win it in two.Â Unfortunately, that was the end of the tournament for Atlantaâ€™s hometown boy.
It was a long but special day at the tournament.Â Four different tennis groups of players but all of them were showing their love of the game.
(David Foster is a native Atlantan who is ecstatic that tennis has returned to his hometown.)