CHICAGO - When the Laver Cup rolls through the United Center this summer, 40 local kids will be working the net.
Close to 200 tried out to be ballkids at the three-day tournament, which comes to the US for the first time in September.
"We've got kids coming from all over the Chicago-area. There are 45 different clubs being represented," noted Patrick McEnroe, who coached the World Team at the first ever Laver Cup last year. "These are kids that have been exposed somewhat to tennis already, but this is really something that can get their interest to a whole other place. You're seeing the best players in the world. You're sort of interacting with them in the most heated moments of competition."
A number of the kids in the running to make the cut come from XS Tennis and The ACE Project - two organizations that give underserved children a chance to play and learn the game.
"First of all, it's amazing that those programs exist in the Chicago-area," McEnroe explained. "Those kids normally wouldn't get an opportunity to play tennis."
"When you see the top of women's tennis and what the Williams' sisters have done as African-Americans with Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys - quite honestly, I'd love to see that kind of diversity coming on the boys side, as well. The bottom line is we need kids of all backgrounds to have the opportunity to play tennis. The more we can get it out there to all different communities, I think people can see that tennis is an amazing game. It's a really difficult game to get really good at. It's a game that takes a lot of perseverance, a lot of patience and a lot of persistence. I think those are good qualities for any child to learn how to deal with."