Florida tennis volunteers were honored over the weekend at the national 2015 USTA Annual Meeting & Conference in Boca Raton, Fla., where on April 11 former Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington received the NJTL Founders Service Award.
Over the last 19 years the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation has provided an after-school haven for the children in the high-crime Jacksonville, Fla., area of Durkeville, with a mission “to develop champions in classrooms, on tennis courts and throughout communities.”
“There is so much potential in these students, every single one of them,” Washington said. “When I was 10 years old I was dreaming of playing at the US Open and being on stadium court, and they have dreams as well. It is our job to help them realize their dreams.”
The foundation’s flagship TnT (Tennis-n-Tutoring) after-school program provides three daily sessions that offer academic assistance, tennis and fitness activities, and life skills classes. Each child also receives a nutritious snack daily. Life Skills and Enrichment classes are age appropriate and range from basic hygiene to pregnancy prevention. All students participate in community service activities and have the opportunity to go on enrichment field trips based on reaching pre-determined goals.
“This will be as much if not more of his legacy than being on the tennis court,” said MWYF Executive Director Terri Florio, who with Washington has overseen the foundation since its inception.
Washington turned pro in 1989, and in 1990 was named the ATP Rookie of the Year. During a 10-year career cut short by a knee injury he won four titles in 13 singles finals, reached No. 11 on the ATP Rankings, and posted career wins over No. 1-ranked players Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Jimmy Connors, and Gustavo Kuerten.
In 1996 he reached the Wimbledon Championships final, becoming the first African American man to reach a Grand Slam singles final since the legendary Arthur Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975. The two remain the only African American men to achieve the feat.
Also recognized for volunteer service to the USTA from Florida were:
20 Years Service — Maria Cercone, Carolyn Nichols
10 Years Service — former USTA Florida Presidents Dan Casey and Donn Davis, current President Nancy Horowitz, and Larry Turville