michelle obama

Michelle Obama attends the US Open

First Lady Michelle Obama applauded the United States Tennis Association (USTA) for engaging millions of children in tennis, introducing tennis into thousands of elementary schools throughout the country, and building more than 2000 right-sized courts that provide a place for young people to play tennis. The USTA’s efforts were part of its partnership with both the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to encourage more children to become active and lead healthier lifestyles. The USTA exceeded its commitment.

Mrs. Obama was in New York to participate in a USTA 10 and Under Tennis Clinic at the US Open. She was joined by several current and former tennis champions including Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, John McEnroe, James Blake, MaliVai Washington and Katrina Adams, as she thanked children from the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program for participating in her Let’s Move! initiative.

“I have been trying to get to the US Open my entire life. I am so incredibly excited to finally be at my first US Open, but I am equally excited and proud to be standing in partnership with the USTA and all they have done for hundreds of thousands of kids across this country. You are an example of what we can do when we put our minds to it,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “I am again grateful to the USTA. The courts you build, these kids sized courts, are just amazing. They will break that barrier; they will make tennis accessible to kids…  I am so proud of the USTA.”

Earlier this year, the USTA partnered with the “Let’s Move!” campaign, which helps more kids to get moving, lead healthy lifestyles, and earn their own Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA). The PALA award recognizes kids who stay active for 60 minutes per day, five days a week for six out of eight weeks. Kids are encouraged to play tennis during their program hours and are reminded to stay active at home or in school. PALA’s national goal is to get one million youngsters to take this challenge. To date, the USTA is responsible for providing over 226,634 kids who have participated in and completed PALA through its National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network, Jr. Team Tennis (JTT) League, Community Tennis Associations (CTA), Schools Tennis, Tennis in the Parks, and Wheelchair Tennis programs.

Serena Williams takes on tennis and the First Family in a Kastles’ win

In her first U.S. match in nearly two years, Serena Williams joined the Washington Kastles as they defeated the Boston Lobsters 25-10 in a thrilling evening overlooking the waterfront in Washington, D.C. Not only was there entertaining tennis, but the First Family was in attendance with Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia.

The evening began early, but “fashionably late” as Williams arrived late but took the court for a Kids’ Clinic for local youth organizations. As she was mobbed with photographers, the thing that stood out to me was her willingness to forget about the cameras and interact with the kids 1-on-1. Even though her time on-court was limited, it was not short on energy and optimism as she coached the kids to perfect their slice backhands and encouraged them to try missed shots again. The smiles on the kids’ faces told the whole story: they were excited to meet and hit with their idol.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

As the Kastles’ players warmed up prior to the press conference, Coach Murphy Jensen also did not disappoint. During his serving drill, he was as audible as the capital letters in his twitter posts would have you believe. Williams also brought along her current coach, Sascha Bajin, who rallied with the players and acted as their temporary ball boy.

As the sun began to set over the Potomac River, the atmosphere was unique as first lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Sasha and Malia, attended the second home match of the Kastles. Sasha grooved to the changeover music, holding up “Refuse to Lose” signs while her sister and mother politely cheered and clapped points.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The women’s doubles tandem of Serena Williams and Rennae Stubbs took the court for the first match of the evening against Mashona Washington and Coco Vandeweghe. Even though Serena did not look like the former #1 and 13-time Grand Slam champion that she is, the Kastles’ ladies still came out victorious 5-2.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The men’s doubles featured Kastles’ players Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds versus Eric Butorac and Jan-Michael Gambill. The home team was in good form, quickly going up 4-0 before taking it to 5-1, bringing the score to 10-3.

With the men’s singles match occurring next, I expected only the men to take the court to warmup, but Serena jumped to her feet and warmed up Reynolds, while Butorac and Gambill warmed up on the opposite end. As much fun as it would have been to watch Serena take on Jan-Michael Gambill in the men’s singles match, it was Reynolds who did so and outplayed Gambill, 5-2.

At halftime, it looked like the First Family was leaving, but I quickly found out that they had met with the Kastles’ players and then returned to cheer on the mixed doubles team of Serena Williams and Leander Paes. For the first time in the evening, Williams seemed relaxed and chatty, taking on her old form pre-injury swiping anything that came her way and running down wide balls. From her press conference earlier in the evening, she addressed her foot fault fiasco as being “ages ago” and “so 2009.” Her renewed love for the sport was evident in Wimbledon as she broke down in tears on-court after her first round win and it was present here tonight as she smiled and danced her way to a win.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The women’s singles match concluded the evening and held the closest score all day, with Vandeweghe giving Williams good competition before going down 5-4 to take the final score to 25-10 for a Kastles’ win. Although Williams’ shot-making hasn’t faltered and her movement is deceptively quick, it’s her consistency that still needs improvement after being away from the game for almost one year. But if her renewed spirit is any indication, we will be seeing a lot more of Serena Williams this summer as she is set to play Stanford, Toronto, Cincinnati, and the U.S. Open next.

All photos provided by Kelyn Soong who is a freelance reporter and photographer. Follow his website here: http://kelynsoong.blogspot.com/ You can also follow Kelyn @Soongy12. 

Wimbledon champ Serena Williams visits Obama

WASHINGTON – It was tennis before baseball for President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Before heading off to St. Louis to throw the first pitch at the All-Star game, the president welcomed Wimbledon champion Serena Williams to the White House.

“It was amazing,” Williams said before her World Team Tennis match with the Washington Kastles. “I love President Obama; he has such an unbelievable presence, and he seems to be so normal — and he noticed my shoes. I think that was the highlight of the whole day, was he liked my shoes.”

Williams said she was wearing 5-inch heels for the presidential visit.

“He asked me, ‘Should I be wearing high heels?’ So I thought that was kind of funny because he may have been right,” Williams said. “Because it is a job hazard for me, but I insist on wearing them.”

Williams got to meet Michelle Obama and the rest of the first family.

“I didn’t know she had such an amazing personality,” Williams said. “She had me cracking up and laughing. I knew she was a great person, but now I really understand how important this first family is to the United States. And the kids were just so cute and sweet, and the dog was nice.”

If it’s good enough for Michelle Obama…

Jelena Jankovic moved away from the baby doll dresses she and clothing sponsor ANTA dreamed up for the beginning of 2009, choosing Miami as the event to debut this faux one-shoulder kit (hey, if it’s good enough for Michelle Obama, it’s good enough for Ms. Jankovic!).

Jelena crashed out of that tournament, unfortunately (losing to Gisela Dulko in the second round after a bye), but she bounced back the week after with a title win at the Andalucia Tennis Experience. Following that, she had three quarterfinal losses at Stuttgart, Roma, and Madrid.

What’s in store for Paris? We here at TSF eagerly await what she’ll wear while playing on the terre battue of Roland Garros (which begins next week). Judging from her choices so far, I don’t think she’ll disappoint…

More: A few more pictures during Janks’ Madrid Open run — including the white/blue sneakers and the blue mascara she paired with her blue warm-up.