Northbrook, IL – July 19, 2018 – In what has become an annual tradition, NSSRA Special Olympics athlete Stefan Xidas of Wilmette took the courts on Monday, July 9 to perform a tennis exhibition prior to opening matches at the Nielsen USTA Pro Tennis Championship. Held in Winnetka from July 7 – July 14, the $75,000 Men’s Challenger tournament is a one of a kind event attracting some of the finest tennis players in the world and drawing international attention. Net proceeds benefit NSSRA, and in the last 11 years the tournament has donated over $175,000 for programs and services benefiting people with disabilities.
Xidas played a friendly set of matches against his tennis coach Pat Fragassi, who is also Manager at Winnetka Park District’s Nielsen Tennis Center. “When Stefan saw his name on the scoreboard, you could see him glowing with pride,” said NSSRA Recreation Manager Becca Zajler. “He was eager to play and excited to have an opportunity to showcase his skills.” Zajler oversees NSSRA’s adult day program as well as all of NSSRA’s Gator Athletics/Special Olympics programs.
Highly anticipated by tournament attendees each year, following the exhibition Xidas and fellow Gator athlete Sam Green (Winnetka) sang the National Anthem to open the evening’s play.
Gator teammates Alison Shapiro (Highland Park) and Katie Livingston (Kenilworth) also joined Xidas and Green at the tournament. All four athletes recently competed and medaled at the Special Olympics Illinois (SOI) Tennis Qualifier in Aurora, with Xidas, Green and Livingston each winning a silver medal. Shapiro won gold in her event and qualified for the state competition in August.
“The tournament and exhibition are such a great experience for our Gator athletes,” said Zajler. She continued, “Standing courtside, they beamed waving to the crowd during opening announcements. They are so proud of their skills and achievements, especially of their recent successes at the SOI qualifying competition, but they are also just so proud to be NSSRA Gators. This exhibition is always a magical evening for our participants.”
NSSRA, founded in 1970, serves approximately 1,600 children, teens and adults with disabilities living in its partner communities throughout the northern suburbs. In addition to its Special Olympics Gator Tennis program, NSSRA has nearly 500 recreation, sport, cultural and social offerings available during the day, after school, in the evenings and on weekends, creating new experiences, opportunities for leisure time, skill development and perhaps most importantly, friendship. NSSRA’s Gator Athletics/Special Olympics programs span 10 sports with nearly 100 athletes.
NSSRA provides and facilitates year-round recreation programs and services for children, teens and adults with disabilities who live in the partner communities. NSSRA is an extension of ten park districts, two cities and one village in the northern suburbs of Chicago. This partnership includes the Park Districts of Deerfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Lake Bluff, Northbrook, Northfield, Wilmette and Winnetka; the Cities of Highwood and Lake Forest; and the Village of Riverwoods. NSSRA has been creating an environment of belonging through play since 1970, and has the distinction as the first Special Recreation Association in the country. For more information about NSSRA and the programs and services they provide visit www.nssra.org.
With approximately 90 tournaments hosted annually throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The USTA Pro Circuit provides players with the opportunity to gain professional ranking points, and it has since grown to become the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, offering nearly $3 million in prize money. Mardy Fish, Maria Sharapova, John Isner, Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Querrey, Victoria Azarenka and Andy Murray are among today’s top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit. For more information, visit www.nielsenprotennis.org.