Three local tennis players had the best possible view last month when Serena Williams and other tennis stars visited the state for the Fed Cup.
Local students Lauryn Dykstra (Burlington-Edison), Carli Garcia (Burlington-Edison) and Lily Long (Mount Vernon Christian) served as ball girls at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
The Feb. 7-8 event was a Fed Cup qualifier between the United States and Latvia, and featured big names such as 39-time Grand Slam winner Williams and recent Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin.
Latvia was no slouch either, with former French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko among its competitors.
All three Skagit County participants had trained with local coach Terry Williams. When another former player, Jesse Schouten, touched base with Williams looking for ball girls for the Fed Cup, Williams knew who to recommend.
“I knew that they had the energy, smarts, and love for tennis that would make them ideal candidates,” he said in an e-mail.
Dykstra, who plays tennis for Burlington-Edison, said it was a daunting experience at first, especially when she took the court with the players.
“Especially during the opening ceremony when I had to walk out with players. It was intimidating,” she said.
Dykstra got to hold both countries’ flags, as well as supply the Fed Cup players with towels.
“Both days it was full. It was a high-energy event,” Dykstra said. “Especially when the big players like Sophia and Serena were out ... The energy was super high and everyone was excited.”
Dykstra’s fellow Tiger, Garcia, hasn’t been playing tennis long but said she was in awe to be so close to elite athletes such Kenin, young star Coco Gauff — who attended but didn’t compete — and especially Williams, the active leader in Grand Slam wins.
“It was mind-boggling to be in such close proximity to someone I’ve looked up to for so long. It was so much fun, so cool.”
Garcia said the ball girls got mementos such as balls and T-shirts. They also had photos taken with the players.
Long, who plans to try out for Mount Vernon’s tennis team, said the experience even improved her own tennis game.
“I realized a change (I could make) in my game because I could see their footwork, the way they served, all of their methods,” she said. “After I played when I got back, I felt like I was playing a lot better. I was using my feet more and my stroke was better. I’d been watching them six hours a day.”
The U.S. beat Latvia 3-2.