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May 28, 2013 > Tenndeavor brings tennis back to kids

Tenndeavor brings tennis back to kids

By Kenny Jacoby

Last February, tennis fans in the U.S. suffered a great loss when the 125 year-old SAP Open in San Jose was officially sold by San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises for financial reasons and relocated to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Behind the U.S. Open in New York, this second oldest tournament in the U.S. has hosted countless tennis greats including Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Pete Sampras. Last July the LA Tennis Open at UCLA held its final event after the 86 year-old tournament was sold to Bogota, Colombia.

Bay Area tennis enthusiasts will indeed miss attending these annual tournaments, but former tennis professionals Geoff Gehrke and Scoville Jenkins are most concerned about the negative impact on American youth interest in their sport.

Looking to do something different from the typical tennis academy or training center after concluding his playing career, Gehrke started Tenndeavor. His goal is to develop a non-profit program to help underprivileged groups learn the game of tennis from athletes who played as professionals.

Three years ago, Gehrke started the "Serve First Program," donating his time on Wednesdays to introduce and teach the game of tennis to students at Centerville Junior High in Fremont. "This year I spoke to one of my closest friends [Jenkins] who played professional tennis about the idea of bringing him to the Bay Area this summer, introducing a unique program that would have an immediate and positive impact on young athletes. We hope to grow the game in an area that has lost the experience of a live men's professional tennis event," said Gehrke. "We also received an interest from adult tennis players in the Bay Area, so we decided to hold several drop-in clinics, the first one being free and open to anyone who wants to participate." The clinic will be at Canada College in Redwood City on June 15 at 1 p.m.

Both Gehrke and Jenkins have extensive experience coaching and mentoring kids at all levels of expertise ranging from first-time beginners to seasoned professionals, and each has more than impressive qualifications. Both competed on the ATP tour with the world's greatest players including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and current world #1 Novak Djokovic. Jenkins added himself to the history books of American tennis by becoming the first African-American to win the boys' national championship in the tournament's 89-year history, earning him a place in his first US Open and a night match in front of 22,000 fans in tennis' largest stadium against Andy Roddick. He reached a world ranking of #187 at the height of his career in 2009, has won many matches on the ATP World Tour and has played in all the Grand Slam tournaments.

Gehrke, a native of Fremont, reached a world ranking of #709, played NCAA Division 1 tennis at Cal Poly SLO and defeated world #21 Daniele Bracciali in doubles on the ATP Tour in 2008. Gehrke, who retired in 2009, has served as a traveling coach for world #70 Flavio Cipolla. Jenkins, retired in 2010, is the assistant coach of the University of Washington tennis team ranked #24 in the nation. Both men are accredited Professional 1 by the United States Professional Tennis Association, the highest coaching rating possible.

Tenndeavor is a program designed to bring tennis players and enthusiasts together to learn the sport from athletes who played as professionals. "At Tenndeavor, our intention is not only to teach tennis to aspiring players but to generate a genuine excitement in each student from interacting with a professional athlete. Knowledge, experience and fundamental techniques will certainly be passed to each student, but that special "spark" that takes someone beyond what they dreamed possible to the upper echelons of the sport and into the record books is our ultimate goal."

The upcoming summer program is aimed at developing players at all skill levels. Each camp will offer new and different drills, games, and prizes. Everyone in attendance will have the unique opportunity to receive tips, advice, and knowledge from professionals who have played the game at its highest level.

The summer camp for East Bay participants takes place from June to August and sign-ups are being offered now. For more information, visit www.tenndeavor.com, Facebook page www.facebook.com/tenndeavor, or call toll-free at 1-888-507-7307.

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