The percussive beat of bouncing balls echoed through the tennis courts at Newbridge Road Park in Bellmore as dozens of children and their families attended a crash course on the sport on Saturday. Fabiana Rezak, a Merrick resident and longtime U.S. Tennis Association volunteer, hosted the free clinic with the Town of Hempstead Department of Parks and Recreation.
Typically in tennis, singles matches have no breaks and athletes receive little coaching, Rezak told the Herald. If the game does not go as planned, she added, “you just keep playing.” Rezak, who emigrated from Argentina in 1988 to play tennis in America, said that the lessons in perseverance she learned through the sport aided her on her road to citizenship. Now the mother of two high school students, Rezak said that her goal in volunteering with the USTA is to help children in her community learn how to play.
Rezak hosted free tennis clinics for children ages 4 and older at both Newbridge Road Park and Coes Neck Park in North Baldwin. She started the program last year alongside the USTA’s initiative to coordinate more tennis opportunities in Latino communities. Rezak also serves as the Hispanic coordinator of tennis programming in Nassau County and has introduced the sport to Circulo de la Hispanidad and Evergreen Charter School in Long Beach and Hempstead.
In addition to the initiative, the USTA recently made modifications to the sport, making it easier for beginners to learn. At the clinic, children used smaller courts and lower-bouncing balls to help grasp tennis basics. Rezak’s clinics were so well received by the community that 110 children registered to play this year.
The clinic was run by Rezak’s fellow USTA volunteers, as well as tennis instructors, professionals players and high school students, including Rezak’s daughter, Nicole. The Kennedy High School senior learned to play tennis at the age of four by using a standard racket and a balloon. “The ball was too big for me to control,” she said.
Since then, Nicole said she has been influenced by her mother’s passion for the sport. “Everyone knows me as the tennis girl,” she said, adding that she plans to keep playing at New York University, where she will study biology in the fall.
Rezak was born in Buenos Aires and started competing in local tennis tournaments at the age of 8, moving on to play nationally at the age of 12. In 1988, she won a tennis scholarship to attend the University of Toledo in Ohio. Rezak came to America, where she stayed with a family friend, Esther Bovino, for the majority of her studies. She taught Bovino’s children how to play tennis and Bovino helped her learn English. In addition to Bovino, Rezak lived with four other families, who all improved her English skills.
Rezak met her husband at the University of Toledo and eventually moved to Long Island with him to raise a family. According to Rezak, the tennis community in Argentina relies on the efforts of locals to put together club teams and playing opportunities. “We hope, through the park system, we can create more [opportunities] like in Argentina,” she added.
The USTA is working to host clinics across Long Island similar to those at Newbridge Road and Coes Neck parks. For more information on tennis, or to find a clinic near you, email Rezak at Simplyfabiana@gmail.com or call the USTA Eastern Office at 914-697-2386.