Public Courts: Jones brothers put their stamp on tournament
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Eric and Sharmila Jones had plans to take their children to the beach this week, but their four kids had other ideas.
They wanted to play in the family's first Public Courts tennis tournament.
Not only are three (Nadeem, Rohen, and Samir) of the four kids participating in the tournament, but they're in the same division as well. All three are brothers, with only 5-year old sister Riya not old enough to play.
Two of the brothers were in the same part of the draw and would have had to play each other in the semi-finals had they both made it. However the oldest child, Nadeem Jones, fell in the round of 16 to Christopher Istfan 6-4, 6-3 at the Tennis Indoor Center in Charleston Monday.
Even with Nadeem, the third seed in the U12 tournament, ousted, the Jones family still has two of the brothers competing. Rohen already advanced to the quarterfinals and Samir will play his round of 16 game today.
"At first, we were thinking of going to the beach, but we wanted to play," Nadeem said. "Next week, we can go to the beach."
Despite having to push back their beach trip, the entire family was excited to be playing in the Public Courts for the first time.
"We were very excited because this is such a great tournament for this town," Sharmila Jones said. "It brings everybody out that we have known from the tennis community.
"It's neat for the kids to get to see their coaches play and the older kids they see from the community."
Having all three boys playing in the same division, despite their difference in age, made the experience that much more enjoyable for the family.
"It's a great thing to have all the kids in the same category together," Eric Jones said. "We have kids from ages 7 to 10. They are good kids and we just really enjoy getting a chance to see them play."
Nadeem is the oldest of the four Jones siblings at 10 years old, followed by 8-year-old Rohen and 7-year-old Samir. Another oddity in the brothers' tournament experience is the difference in age and height of the other entrants.
The 11-year-old Istfan defeated Nadeem Jones for the third time in their fourth all-time meeting, and had a considerable size advantage as well at around 4-foot-8 compared to the 4-2 Jones, who had to get up on his toes just to flip the scorecards.
The youngest child in the tournament is 7 years old, with the oldest child being 12. Despite the major differences in kids' size, the Jones family still sees the good that can come from it.
"I think it's a good experience for them," Sharmila Jones said. "They get to challenge themselves playing against other kids that are older and stronger. Our kids can only just learn from that. I think it's a good thing."
All three of the brothers have been playing for at least four years while Riya has been playing for two years.
While Riya may not have the size and experience of her brothers, she is a part of a new United States Tennis Association program called the 10 and Under Tennis Initiative.
The program is designed to help younger kids that have just started to play tennis further develop with a smaller court progressing from 36 to 60 feet, to the traditional 78-foot court, as well as different sized balls to help their play.
"It changes the court size to adapt to the children's size," said Kathy Hudson, the Junior Tennis Director at the Charleston Tennis Club. "The balls make a huge difference in their progress as well, especially at an early age.
"Each age group (3-5, 6-8, and 8-10) has a different sized ball (red, orange, and green dot). The balls don't bounce as high or move as fast. It allows them to move better and get in position, and be more offensive. There is a lot of interest to learn the game. It's our job to help them stay with it."
Both Eric, 41, and Sharmila, 42, played high school tennis at George Washington and Parkersburg, respectively, but got away from the game during college. That has all but changed with all their children playing, and they couldn't be happier.
"Both of us stopped playing but when they started showing interest in tennis, that's when we started playing again," Sharmila Jones said. "The neat thing is we all six play so much together. We get our exercise and get back into the sport.
"Maybe when they are older and don't feel like they are getting much from us, we will start playing against other people, and maybe even next year in the Public Courts," she added. "That's when we aren't much of a challenge for them anymore, which is getting close."
Contact sportswriter Christopher Wade at email@example.com or 304-348-1735.