Sunday, June 02, 2002

Unique way to give back

By Michael Perry,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The new tennis backboard at Inwood park on Hollister and Vine St. in Mt Auburn was hit -- not by a tennis ball, but by graffiti -- before the white line was put on.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        Vince Spadea has had good feelings about Cincinnati since he first played — and won — a Challenger tennis event here in 1994. No matter how good or bad his results have been, people always treated him well.

        So when Spadea received $12,500 for playing on the 2000 U.S. Davis Cup team and was told by the U.S. Tennis Association he had to find charitable causes for the money, he immediately thought of Cincinnati.

        Spadea, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., donated $6,250 to the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati, which decided to turn the money over to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

        “We thought it made sense to give it to inner-city tennis,” TMS Cincinnati tournament director Bruce Flory said. “It just seemed natural to put it back into the game.”

        The donation is being used for six backboards at public tennis courts around the city.

        “I've been on the (ATP) Tour now for nine years and I've been traveling obviously to many different cities and ... when I went to Cincinnati, there was a special welcome that I felt from the community, as well as the tennis event itself,” Spadea said.

        “There's something about the water there. Everybody has always had a pleasant smile and a genuine feeling about them. I've met many kids there throughout the tennis events. I felt like it would be my pleasure to put this into their city.”

        The Tennis Masters Series event already contributes proceeds from its Seniors Championship to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, totaling $254,000 since 1991.

        Karen Montavon, CRC tennis coordinator, said when she received a phone call from Flory offering Spadea's donation, they discussed a few options for the money.

        “I suggested backboards because you can put a backboard out and people can go play without scheduled time or an opponent, and they can be up all the time,” Montavon said. “That's the way I learned how to play, hitting against a wall when you didn't have anyone else to hit with.”

        Backboards have already been installed in Hartwell, Mt. Auburn, Madisonville and Westwood, Montavon said. Another will be installed at Lunken Airport Playfield after those courts are resurfaced in the fall and another will go up at Losantiville Triangle.

        “CRC has 31 different sites with tennis courts and most do have backboards,” Montavon said. “We chose sites that didn't have them and sites that are well-used. And we spread them out — east, west, central.”

        Said Spadea: “I'm really impressed and honored to be a part of that whole scenario. I didn't know it would flourish into that kind of situation.”

        Spadea, 27, has played in the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati main draw six of the past seven years. He advanced to the Round of 16 in 1997 before losing to Gustavo Kuerten. His best showing was in '98, when he beat Justin Gimelstob, 10th-seeded Andre Agassi and eighth-seeded Richard Krajicek to advance to the quarterfinals, where he lost to No.1 seed Pete Sampras.

        Last year, Spadea lost in the second round of the qualifying tournament, and in 2000 and 1999 he lost in the first round of the main draw.

        “I have had some disappointing years there in tennis, but not when I leave the stadium,” Spadea said.


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