Kids’ Day at the Istanbul Open: A Success

During the match between the local favorite Cem Ilkel and Daniel Gimeno-Traver, you could already see the excitement on the kids’ faces. They lined up by the entry to the lower stands early in the match, and during the next two change-overs, they eagerly filled up one side of the stadium’s lower level.

Kids and parents, patiently waiting in the stands, ready for the clinic

You could see the excitement on their faces. They were going to be a part of something special, a clinic led by the world’s best-known male tennis face, the 17-Major champion Roger Federer. They patiently watched with their parents the rest of the match between Ilkel and Gimeno-Traver. Once it was over, they got invited to the court and the equipment needed to hold the clinic was rapidly brought to the court by the staff. The kids warmed up, and the much-awaited announcement filled the air: Roger Federer was on his way to the center court. By the time he arrived, the atmosphere was electric the setup was complete. The Swiss joined the party with a microphone hooked up to his head. He masterfully entertained the public of the center court, kids and adults, for about half an hour in a way that no other top name in tennis can. He showed that he not only possesses great skills on the court, but also in the art of showmanship. He literally gave a clinic on how to entertain a large group of crowd. He engaged the kids in various fun drills, kept a running commentary, and cracked jokes here and there keeping either the kids or the crowd laughing continuously.

Federer approaching the net, he got passed on this occasion!

The organizers successfully picked kids that play tennis and have attained a certain degree of skill, which led to some fun rallies between Federer and them, sometimes with the kid winning the point and the crowd roaring. The Swiss maestro kept a smile throughout, encouraged the crowd’s participation, and simply made every kid feel special with his cheerful personality. Even when the clouds covered the sky and it started drizzling, he remained upbeat and never made the conditions feel like a threat to the flow of activities.

When it was all said and done, a mesmerized crowd applauded both Federer and the children for an extended period of time. Federer lined the kids up one group at a time for plenty of pictures, and made sure to sign as many of the giant balls as possible.

Federer taking his time, as usual, to make sure every kid gets a picture taken with him

Having seen many kids’ day activities at various professional tournaments at all levels, I was impressed with the planning and the execution of the event. Just as failures deserve criticism (see the previous blog entry), successes deserve praise; therefore the organizers should get an A+ for convincing Federer to fully engage himself as the main attraction of the event, making sure all the necessary measures were taken for a smooth operation, arranging the equipment, and setting up the court and its surrounding ahead of time. Careful planning spells success and the Tuesday late afternoon at the Istanbul Open proved that it can be done.

Wednesday features four singles matches on the center court, ending with the main star of the tournament, Federer, taking on the seasoned veteran Jarkko Nieminen.

Until next time…

5 Replies to “Kids’ Day at the Istanbul Open: A Success”

  1. Totally agree with you. One of the best ‘kids days’ that I’ve seen, where it was focused on kids and tennis and *engagement* with Roger. He clearly enjoyed being in control of the clinic rather than have things choreographed.
    It also showed what a decent man he is, whatever the circumstances. Every year the ATP Fans’ Favourite? No wonder.
    BTW, very much appreciating your reports from the event: good to get such objective coverage.

  2. The Turkish Tennis social media is absolutely ablaze with critisizm for the very same event you give glowing praise of. According to them the event was a farce. Kids who had been regional winners were invited to İstanbul by the TTF on the promise they would play tennis with the great man himself. Many travelled huge distances to be there and eagerly awaited their turn. The degree of excitement you detected is probably a direct result of those regional champions believing their moment had come. Of course that moment never came, many sat in the stands crying because they were not called to the court.

    There are claims that those with connections within the Turksh Tennis Federation were chosen for the honour of joining the master on court. These claims say those chosen few could barely play tennis(unlike the overlooked, regional champions waiting in the stands).

    In my opinion the fault for all these disapponinted youngsters can be metered out to two groups. The TTF for foolishly implying each of these potential future stars would be on the court with Mr. Federer and the parents for not thinking the logistics through. With 81 regions in the country it was never going to be a given that their child would be on court.

    Surely everyone involved should have celebrated the fact that Federer gave his time to be there for them and the event should have been promoted in this light.

    It is sad that so many un-met expectations led to such a lot of unnecessary disappointment when the event could have been seen as the resounding success you saw it to be.

    1. Fair argument. I would say on the other hand that the event’s success and whether the parents of certain kids or the representatives of certain regions were satisfied are two separate things. The former was a success without a doubt, the latter concerns an area where you will never make everyone happy.

      As to the few “chosen” (and very few I would say, most hit the ball fairly well), if you live in Turkey (and I am assuming you do), you would know that that is simply unavoidable. The sequence of raising the expectations of a number of kids and their parents too high and being unable to meet them can/should be a point of criticism, but it does not negate the fact that the event itself ran smoothly and that the spectacle (because, after all, that is what it was) was well-received.

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. That’s very nice to read. I’ve thought Djokovic has also been very good with the kids. Back in 2012 when I was at the Australian Open, a ball kid parent told me that he was right at the top as a person who was courteous and encouraging to the young players.

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