Hey everyone! I just got back from my New York City trip, and cannot wait to share all of my experiences with you. I am writing a series of 3 columns for this trip! Here is the first one, I hope you enjoy!

13 Years Later

My mom first signed me up for my first tennis lessons through Sunset Tennis Center in St. Louis when in kindergarten. A coach there, Craig Sandvig, saw me practicing and talked to my mom about coaching me. Craig became my childhood coach and lifelong mentor. I remember when I got to practice one day when I was 12, Craig gave me a cut out of a newspaper article. The article said something like “NJTL Arthur Ashe Essay Contest win a free trip to the US Open!” I remember right away not wanting to write it.  But Craig was persistent and asked me every practice if I had submitted my essay. After I finally wrote my essay on why “Arthur Ashe is a sports legend”, I submitted it. A week later, I received a phone call from the NJTL organization saying that my essay had been chosen as the winning essay and to pack my bags for a trip to the US Open.

It was an all-expense paid trip for two (I brought my dad) to the 2004 US Open. Along with going to the US Open, hanging in the Arthur Ashe suite, and attending Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day, we received tickets to a Mets game, tickets to the Broadway play Beauty and the Beast, and a ferry tour around New York City. I met some amazing people that trip and I remember being inspired by the atmosphere. Sitting in the suite, I remember feeling overwhelmed with the feeling of being on center court. I remember thinking how cool it was to play such a fun sport and be at such an amazing event. I watched Donald Young who at the time was “up and coming”, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Mary Pierce, and many other players. Fun fact: Roger Federer ended up winning his first US Open title that year.  Perhaps the most memorable moment for me of the whole trip was meeting Arthur’s wife, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. I remember thinking she was one of the prettiest, most graceful women I had ever seen. When I met her, I gave her a picture I had drawn of Arthur. She sent me a thank you note after the trip that I still have. If you do not know the story of Arthur Ashe, I urge you to read about him, and learn about all of the amazing qualities he had and stood for. Throughout my life and career, I have tried to use him as an example to me on discipline, hard work, and courageousness.

It took me 13 years later to finally make it back to the US Open. This time I did not need to win an essay contest. My trip consisted of attending the New Haven Open, the WTCA conference, and the 2017 US Open. After spending two entire days on site at Flushing Meadows, I thought to myself “why did it take me 13 years later to come back here?” The US Open is different from anything I have ever experienced in the tennis world, and I am going to make it a point in the future to return every year. I have played in many different places and tournaments and attended many different professional tournaments. It is safe to say that nothing compares to the environment, the energy, and the overall magical feeling of being at the US Open. A couple nights ago, when I was sitting on center court at the US Open watching Roger Federer take on young American Frances Tiafoe, I had that same overwhelming feeling I had when I was 12. How lucky am I to be involved in such an amazing sport that has shaped my life and taught me so much!

Rachel Stuhlmann

Author Rachel Stuhlmann

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