It has to be the dream of a lifetime if you are 12 years old and in love with the game of tennis, playing against other top-ranked juniors from around the world on the renowned red clay of Stade Roland Garros in Paris during the upcoming French Open.
As 12-year-old Lauren Fishbein of Livingston, New Jersey, heads off to Paris next week, her dream has become a delicious reality. After winning the Longines Junior Tennis Challenge on April 17 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, Fishbein will find herself joining sister challengers from China, Poland, Russia, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan.
Male juniors from Switzerland, Australia, China, Spain, Italy, Japan, France, and Mexico also won their way into the Challenge by winning their respective tournaments. Once assembled, the competitors will draw for partners and then face each other in a mixed doubles competition—called the Junior Challenge at Stade Roland Garros.
Play for the budding tennis stars will get underway the second week of the French Open Championships, with their matches taking place on June 3 and 4. The young players will be assisted by professionals Agnieszka Radwanksa of Poland and Tsung-Hua Yang of Taiwan as well as Mansour Bahrami from France, who will be offering coaching and moral support to the lucky juniors.
The winners of the mixed doubles competition will enjoy the thrill of facing off against former French Open champions Mary Pierce and Gustavo Kuerten just prior to the women’s championship on the final Saturday.
Fishbein was selected among the 20 highest-ranked girls of the USTA’s eastern division for 11 and 12 year-olds. Along with the other girls, Lauren was invited to write an essay describing why it is important to give back to your community and help others.
Eight essays including Fishbein’s were selected as the best by a panel of judges that included former world No. 1 Steffi Graf.
All Fishbein had to do now was win the tournament in order to secure a chance to play in Paris—which was exactly what she did—defeating Gaby Pollner of White Plains, New York, 6-1, 6-1, to win the championship.
At the conclusion of the match, Fishbein expressed her pleasure at the level of her play and in her opportunity to compete on the clay courts at Stade Roland Garros.
Standing 5’7,” Fishbein selected playing tennis over dance two years ago, even though she loved doing both. The 7th grader, who will soon turn 13, looks forward to a chance to travel to Paris, where she will meet players from around the world.
In winning the Junior Tennis Challenge, Fishbein won the all-expenses paid trip to Paris as well as financing for her tennis equipment until her 16th birthday—another three years.
The Longines Junior Tennis Challenge is hosted by Longines, of course, who is one of the French Open sponsors. It is part of their global initiative to help encourage and support the growth of tennis junior development programs. The company works hand in hand with their Ambassadors Stefanie Graf and Andre Agassi.
Lauren Fishbein is the U.S. representative in 2010, heading to Paris. Hopefully her success this year will expand awareness and participation in this event in the future. It is programs such as these that the USTA hopes will expand the base of junior players—the tennis stars of the future.
As you watch the 2010 French Open unfold starting next week, keep your eye on the Junior Challenge and see which players win the chance to hit with Mary Piece and Gustavo Kuerten on that final Saturday.
Hopefully Lauren Fishbein of the United States will be one of two champions left standing; even if she does not make it to the final, this opportunity should prove to be a great motivator for Fishbein and her fellow competitors.