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D.C. Tennis Tournament Showcases More Than Superstars

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A view of center court at Legg Mason Tennis Classic during Sunday's championship.  Radek Stepanek won this year's tournament.
Patrick Madden
A view of center court at Legg Mason Tennis Classic during Sunday's championship. Radek Stepanek won this year's tournament.

D.C.'s premiere tennis tournament, the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, wrapped up over the weekend and the tournament's goals reach beyond a showcase of world class tennis talent.

A daring drop-shot and the crowd lets out an collective gasp. But the return is even better and the crowd at Legg Mason shows it's appreciation.

The tournament is unique. Its held each year on federal parkland in Northwest D.C. -- a move first proposed by African-American tennis great Arthur Ashe.

Ashe's vision was to have professional tournament in a public park so everyone has access to it," says Eleni Rossides, director of the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation.

Her group now shares that vision.

The WTEF works with young low-income students from around the city. The children receive expert tennis instruction as well as academic support.

"Kids from all over and all economic backgrounds should have the access to tennis and we believe very strongly in what an individual can do for youth and that the lessons on the tennis court translate into the classroom," says Rossides.

Paul Webster, who was four years old when picked up his first racket at the WTEF, is an example.

Now more than a decade later, Webster says he's on track to attend a great school, with the help of his tennis game.

"The other day I was talking with some Ivy League coaches and I attempted a camp at Princeton so it's just opened a lot of doors for me really," says Webster.

And who knows, that path may one day lead back to Legg Mason -- this time on center court.

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