The US Open main draw begins on Monday, but there was plenty of action on and off the courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Saturday as kids of all ages and skill levels enjoyed a successful Arthur Ashe Kids' Day.
It did not matter how old the excited kids were or how long they have played tennis, as there were games and exhibits across the grounds for everyone that only served up one thing: fun.
"I had a lot of fun, it's really cool," 7-year-old Amaya Aneke said. "I've always wanted to meet Serena Williams, but even though I didn't meet Serena Williams, I still got to play with professionals!"
Kids were able to enjoy hair-beading, face painting and storytelling booths along with many off-court activities. For those who stepped onto the same courts that the best professionals in the world compete on, there were opportunities to test service speed, hit targets, run through obstacles and more. Throughout the day, some of the tournament's competitors came out to play with the next generation of tennis stars.
"It's great. I mean it's really nice to give back," NCAA singles champion Mackenzie McDonald said. "I remember doing the same stuff in NorCal (Northern California) and hitting with pros, so I just want to give back, and I think it's really important for tennis."
McDonald was not the only having fun out on the courts, as rising Top 100 player Maria Sakkari joined the likes of Americans Louisa Chirico and Samantha Crawford by getting in on the fun.
"It's nice, it's a nice feeling," Sakkari said. "Kids are nice. I like kids, so it's nice to play with them. It feels good."
There was other entertainment throughout the day, starting with performers on the Hess Festival Stage. Galaxy Empire All Starz, Citizen Four, Sophie Beem, Tegan Marie and Los 5 kicked off the festivities before the Stadium Show in Arthur Ashe Stadium. There, hip-hop artist Flo Rida, singer and songwriter Zara Larsson and actress Laura Marano are set to give kids a treat, with families getting to listen to some of the most popular performers in the world.
Proceeds from Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day benefit the USTA Foundation, which aids in funding the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network, helping support a group of more than 500 nonprofit youth-development organizations across the country that provide free or low-cost tennis, education and life-skills programming to more than 225,000 children each year. The US Open runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 11.