EVERETT — Tennis icon Serena Williams, 15-year-old star Coco Gauff and the rest of the talented U.S. Fed Cup squad will compete over two days at Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena.
The impact of them playing here Friday and Saturday might be felt for much longer, potentially boosting enthusiasm for the sport, especially among younger players.
U.S. Fed Cup captain Kathy Rinaldi certainly believes that will be the case.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Wherever we have played Fed Cup, we have done great things with the community.”
That includes holding youth clinics, like the one Tuesday at the Columbia Athletic Clubs location at Silver Lake in Everett.
The buzz went into high gear after the full team was announced last week, with Gauff, Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske and doubles specialist Bethanie Matek-Sands joining Williams in the Fed Cup qualifier.
“When the news broke that Coco Gauff and (Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin) would be joining the mix with Serena — people were excited, the juniors were excited,” said Mark Bergman, director of tennis at the Columbia Athletic Clubs at Silver Lake.
The excitement reached a fever pitch when Gauff and Riske, along with Rinaldi and coach Lisa Raymond, hit balls with a couple hundred kids and took a group photo.
“If we can inspire even one child out of a group then we have done our job,” Riske said. “I know what it was like when I was a child, and to have someone come out who has been there and done that, it was everything. To be here today was huge, and to see the turnout is remarkable. I was not expecting to see this many kids. This is awesome.”
Bergman said having the Fed Cup has kept the buzz alive in local tennis during what is traditionally a down period.
“Especially in our area, in Everett, where you have a lot of seasonal players, this can help add year-round players,” Bergman said. “What we are noticing is that at this time of the year our classes are mostly full, but this year they are full and we have wait lists. Our classes are booming right now.”
Bergman can’t tie that directly to the Fed Cup, but it certainly didn’t hurt.
Matt Look, a senior recreation specialist for Seattle Parks and Recreation and former assistant men’s tennis coach at Seattle University, said 30 tickets to the Fed Cup were donated to kids at the Amy Yee Tennis Center.
“We saw what happened with soccer and the women’s game and how it can inspire a generation,” Look said. “Tennis is a little bit different, I think, but we have a team event and some interest from our kids (at the Amy Yee Tennis Center) who aren’t the most competitive players currently. They get a chance to see this live, and who knows where it goes from there.”
Rinaldi said seeing all the happy kids at Tuesday’s clinic was very satisfying.
“This is how we all grew up, starting as kids and working our way up,” Rinaldi said. “To be able to give back and come here, and see all the excitement and all the young kids, and the ones dressed in red, white and blue, it has been a lot of fun.”