If it's true that the third time's a charm, American doubles star Rajeev Ram and a cadre of coaches, instructors, and volunteers hit all the lines with the third annual tennis clinics for young players in Indiana, his home state, put on by his nonprofit organization, EntouRaj for Kids.
After a warmup with a fitness trainer in the opening clinic, 50-odd players of various skill levels participated on courts that focused on groundstroke drills, doubles points, speed and athleticism, and more. The event wrapped with an extended Q&A session with Ram, ranked a career-high No. 9 in ATP doubles just prior to this community-building event.
Most of the youth hitters who took part in the clinics, hosted at two area tennis clubs on the weekend before Thanksgiving, were high schoolers—some coming from underserved corporations where a school team might not exist, and a few driving a couple hours each way to take part in the instruction and action.
Partners including USTA Midwest, USTA Central Indiana, Babolat, and more contributed equipment and more to the event, which featured coaching staffs from local high-school teams as on-court advisors to the dozens of budding young players.
Before the Q&A time, players even tried their hand at returning the 6'4" Ram's blistering serve, with a few batting it back for clean returns in the court.
Did you know that @RajeevRam was the only American to qualify for the @atptour finals in 2019? A week later he was back in Indy giving back during @EntouRajforKids. Thx for your time and effort. @babolat @USTA_C_Indiana @USTAMidwest pic.twitter.com/366zAxf6Jv— Brownsburg Tennis (@BburgTennis) November 25, 2019
Now 35, Ram started his eponymous nonprofit in 2010, with a passion for giving back to student-athletes in the community and region of the United States—Indianapolis and Carmel, a northern suburb—where he grew up before becoming a college player at the University of Illinois.
In recent years, EntouRaj for Kids has staged a series of exhibition matches (Andy Roddick, James Blake, Alison Riske, Bob and Mike Bryan), clinics, and unique events. Proceeds benefit high-school tennis teams in need and high-performance junior players with promising futures.
Ram led the event soon after coming off another ATP Finals appearance in doubles, in which he and partner Joe Salisbury won a round-robin match before bowing out of the eight-team competition in which Ram finished a runner-up in 2017. He will next appear at the ATP Cup in Perth, representing Team USA in January 2020.
Disclosure: The writer serves on the EntouRaj for Kids board of directors. You can follow him on Twitter.