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Look out Serena Williams and Andy Roddick because a group of Forest Park youngsters have taken a lesson, caught the bug and are hungry for more tennis. 

The Park District of Forest Park and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) combined to offer free lessons and lunch last Saturday at the Park District tennis courts to all who were willing.

The reason for the event was to attract newcomers and to bring back those who have strayed far from the game’s court. In all 17 adults and more than 25 children participated, most playing the game for the first time.

Instructor Eric Nelson drove all the way from Indianapolis, Ind. to help coach.

“The whole point of events like this one is to get people interested,” Nelson said. “The hardest step is to get people on the courts; once they’re there I know they’ll stay and keep coming back.”

Some parents were shocked to find that they were expected to participate.

Forest Park resident, Morna Flanagan, said, “I know the flyer said ‘Family Fun’ but I didn’t expect that I would be playing. I haven’t played since I was a kid but I’m glad we did it.”

The lessons were tailored for three experience levels: rookie, beginner, and adult.

The rookie level featured children no taller than their racquets. They focused mainly on hand-eye coordination while playing a slue of games keeping everyone smiling. The beginners concentrated on swing mechanics and proper footwork technique.

The adult group learned everything from ‘how to hold a racquet’ to the overhand serve.

While the children took breaks for food and water the adults were hard pressed to leave the court working diligently to improve and fine-tune their newly acquired skills.

The day’s fun was capped off by a skill game that assured all participants a prize courtesy of the USTA. Prizes included bracelets, T-shirts, and even brand new tennis racquets.

“We though this would be an excellent way to kickoff the tennis season as well as reach and thank the community,” event coordinator and Forest Park tennis pro, Lauren Gillian, said. “Tennis is healthy, fun and anyone can do it regardless of age or size.”

Gillian looks to collaborate with the Park District to periodically bring similar events throughout the summer so that the community could enjoy the game more.

While admiring her new yellow bracelet five-year-old Margaret Flanagan summed up the day’s experience best when she said, “It was fun!”