From Saturday, August 6 until Sunday, August 14, Crotona Park will be home to some world-class tennis. For kids who aren’t content to just watch, there will also be free tennis clinics every day that week.
For the 19th straight year, the park will host the Bronx Open. This year’s event, sponsored by Emblem Health, will feature a $50,000 professional women’s tournament. From noon to 3 p.m. each day, the New York Junior Tennis League will conduct free lessons open to all children aged 6 to 18. No equipment, other than sneakers is required.
The festivities officially begin on Saturday with an NYPD vs. FDNY tennis tournament. All matches are free to attend except the women’s tournament finals, which will be held at noon on the last Sunday of the Open.
Carlos Cuevas has been the chairman of the Bronx Open for the past 18 years. Cuevas was Bronx deputy borough president as well as city clerk. Since his retirement in 2001, he has been able to focus on his passion – tennis.
He handles the nuts and bolts of putting together the Open, serves on the board of the NYJTL and plays tennis several times a week. Cuevas’ favorite part about being involved in youth tennis is the way he can use it as a hook to expand kids’ opportunities, be they athletic or academic.
“The NYJTL is not only about tennis,” Cuevas said. “It’s also educational. We help the kids with their homework, we help them with SATs we help them into colleges and private school. That is really my interest.”
The NYJTL has about 100,000 members across the city. They range from 6 to 18 years old. When it comes to running the Bronx Open, Cuevas uses his experience in the city’s bureaucracy to handle the nuts and bolts of putting together a week-long tennis festival in a public park.
He coordinates with Community Board 3, NYPD, EMS crews and sanitation to make sure the tournament runs smoothly.
“On Thursday we are going to have over 2,000 kids (the tournament’s kids day) from the five boroughs,” he said. “
Cuevas gets to present the tournament winner with her trophy and check on Sunday. And as a lifelong Bronxite living in Riverdale, Cuevas loves the fact that the tournament is a way for him to use his favorite sport to put one of his favorite parks on display.
“It’s 126 acres, five ball fields, 20 tennis courts,” Cuevas said. “When you look at Crotona Park you see if one of the jewels of the city Parks Department system.”