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Part of the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center is still under construction but it does not prevent action completely. Most of it will be finished before the start of the United States Open tournament begins in mid-August.

With the construction in progress, only some matches in the upcoming Mayor’s Cup individual and team competitions will be moved to nearby Queens College. Competition for the junior high or intermediate teams and individual and team categories gets underway Saturday and ends Sunday.

During the off season, members, officials and directors of the tournament and the entire staff, as well of the New York Junior Tennis League’s sadly lost one of its founders Claudette Townsend when she died.

Townsend, a former resident of Jamaica, Queens, was extremely helpful in starting the New York Junior Tennis League, now called the New York Junior Tennis and Learning Program, which kept on growing. She along with Chris LaCaopa and Bill Wiese were the last members of the original Mayor’s Cup committee, which started in 1988.

“A number of years ago Claudette missed a number of years of being on the committee and being the referee of the tournament because of a health related issue,” Wiese recently said. “She came back … and continued. She had a lot of courage. She never let the committee other than one person understand the extent of her illness.”

“She made it a point that she would be on our Mayor’s Cup committee in 2013. By time it got to the Mayor’s Cup, she was hospitalized and she couldn’t come and participate. We kept her in touch with what was happening with the Mayor’s Cup. We didn’t realize how poorly she was doing.”

“Last June 22, Townsend passed away from serious heart issues,” according to Shelly Reznick, chief umpire for this year’s Mayor’s Cup tournament.

The New York Junior Tennis & Learning Program will be giving an award to an individual to honor her memory at the conclusion of the boy’s’ singles final, which will be held on Sunday, June 8 at the USTA National Tennis Center.

“We set up an award in her memory…and it will be a camp scholarship based on sportsmanship and academic accomplish­ments,” continued Wiese. “She was a wonderful person.” In addition to tennis, she was a New York City Board of Education teacher.

The recipient will receive a plaque with Claudette’s name on it. (All the details have not as yet been finalized.

Wiese recalls one highlight that stands out in his mind about his ‘teammate’ in various tournaments and programs.“One day I was fortunate enough to be in the grandstand with a reserve seat at the US Open,” he recalled. “Claudette was officiating a match. I hadn’t signed her referee certification for the Mayor’s Cup. On a change-over she walked across the court and had me sign it. Probably it was a highlight of my tennis life…What ever type of person would do that just to make another person feel good…”

As for the upcoming Mayor’s Cup competition, there will be nine instead of eight varsity teams, eight middle school teams, and eight girl’s varsity teams Beacon is top seeded for the boy’s varsity. But, one can not count out Cardozo. In addition, there will be about 350 individuals competing in the singles and doubles competition.

Prior to the Mayor’s Cup competition, New York Junior Tennis & Learning conducted after school and weekend programs for youngsters of any age. This tennis organization also started an advanced training program in 1986 with the cooperation of other sites, including the USTA National Tennis Center, in Flushing Meadow Park. There were two tryouts for the winter and spring-summer programs.

One was staged last Saturday on the Memorial Day weekend at Crotona Park in the Bronx, and it drew many youngsters from the five boroughs.

“The kids who make the team get free training for an eight-week period of five days during the summer,” added Wiese. “A second tryout will be held on the Labor Day weekend for the indoor season. Children will receive training at different clubs throughout the City, including the USTA National Tennis Center. We don’t have a training location in Brooklyn.”

For instance, the advanced training program had 80 participants during the winter. They go on the court, do drills with and without their racquet, run, hit backhands and forehands, and try to serve better. They try to improve on their weaknesses. And they are competing under the direction and coaching of staff members.

After the tryouts on Saturday morning, staff members chose about 60 youngsters from ages eight to 18 for its summer training program which will also take place at Crotona Park during weekday afternoons from noon to 4:00 p.m. Ms. Elena Bantovska will head the program.

“We have a lot of good, top players here trying out,” Wiese added.

They come from all over New York City, including many from Queens. And many of them are ranked in the East. It is going to be a very competitive team.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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