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World class tennis players face off in Crotona

For the 18th year, the Bronx was home to one of the most important events in women’s tennis.

From Monday, August 23, until Saturday, August 28, the EmblemHealth Bronx Open was held at the Crotona Park tennis courts. Competing were 32 women players from around the world, all ranked by the International Tennis Federation in the top 100.

“There was some fabulous tennis,” said Nikki Henkin, a spokeswoman for EmblemHealth. “It’s unfortunate it rained for a few days earlier in the week, but there were some fabulous matches. And everyone could come up and see these players, up close and personal, without paying a fee.”

At the end of the tournament, Anna Chakzetadze, of Russia, went home with the $100,000 grand prize; and Kristina Barrois, of Germany, and Yvonne Meusburger, of Austria, came in first in the doubles category.

The event, which is done in conjunction with the New York Junior Tennis League, was free to the public until the championship events on the last day. The NYJTL, which serves about 100,000 kids across the city between the ages of six and 18 is the largest not-for-profit tennis and education-themed community organization in the country, is also the beneficiary of the event.

Several thousand people showed up to the EmblemHealth Bronx Open over the five days, according to Henkin.

While most came for the matches, which included games between the FDNY and NYPD, many took advantage of the free lessons that were given from noon to 3 p.m. daily.

“All you had to do was bring sneakers,” said Henkin.

Nearly 65 teams of top-ranked players between the ages of 14 and 16, also competed.

Eight-year-old Christian Rogers, who lives in the Crotona Park area and has played tennis for about four years, said he came to the event to be a ball handler with his sister.

“I just did it because she’s doing it, but it was a lot of fun,” the NYJTL member said, as his sister Vanora ran back and forth on the court, catching stray balls and returning them during a Friday afternoon match where the champion, Chakzetadze, faced off against Anastasija Sevastova.

For Bria Heywood, a 14-year-old Riverdale resident, the event gave her a chance to learn more about her favorite game.

“It’s really fun to get to see players that are really good and to see their technique and then to go back and put it into your game,” she said. “I want the experience because next year I really want to start in the US Open. And I really got to know my team better.”

Maurice Malcolm, a coach with the NYJTL who oversees about 40 players, said that bringing his players to the tournament is an important part of their yearly training.

“It’s big for them,” he said. “Especially with the professionals here, they get to see first hand the result of hard work and dedication and where it can take you.”

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