Monthly Archives: August 2019

Inside the Tour with Nina and Irina — Tournament director Joe Ceriello on the NYJTL Bronx Open

“We are the largest youth tennis and education nonprofit in the nation. That’s our daily work. Now the NYJTL Bronx Open is the ultimate aspirational event for our kids.”

This week’s Podcast episode features NYJTL Bronx Open tournament director Joe Ceriello, alongside podcast co-hosts Nina Pantic and Irina Falconi.

Across a 20-year career in tennis, Ceriello has risen from tournament volunteer to tournament director. He explains the ins and outs of organizing a tournament from scratch as pro tennis returns to the Bronx for the first time since 2012. One of the highest-profile tasks is player recruitment and this year’s field is Top-50 strong with the likes of Petra Kvitova, Johanna Konta, Danielle Collins, Maria Sakkari, Anett Kontaveit, Barbora Strycova and Carla Suarez Navarro.

The NYJTL Bronx Open runs August 16-24 at the new Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning in Crotona Park (entry is free). New York Junior Tennis and Learning (NYJTL) is the largest grassroots nonprofit in the U.S. for youth tennis and education with a reach of over 10,000 children in all five boroughs.

Ceriello shares his story on how he went from being a volunteer at the Italian Open in Rome, to a ticket sales employee at the US Open, to an events project coordinator for the USTA. to the Chief Marketing Coordinator at the NYJTL and now, a tournament director of a WTA International event.

Supported by a staff that includes former doubles world No. 1 Liezel Huber and former NYJTL player and WTA pro Asha Rolle, Ceriello’s team is looking to do more than just host a pro tournament. A lot of their efforts go into engaging with local children and helping them find a passion for tennis and education.

Inside the Tour with Nina and Irina — Love Serving Autism founder Lisa Pugliese on adaptive tennis

“One of the students, who is non-verbal, he was very happy to be at tennis, but he didn’t really have any words. So his mom said one day, ‘I just wanted to let you know that Marvin brings his tennis racquet at night to his bed.’ I kind of was stunned because I knew he enjoyed tennis, but I didn’t realize how much he loved it, and that was his way of expressing himself.”

Joining co-hosts Nina Pantic and Irina Falconi on the Podcast this week is Love Serving Autism CEO and founder Lisa Pugliese.

Pugliese competed as a junior, collegiate player (at Duke and the University of Florida) and pro on the ITF tour. Once her playing career was over, she discovered a passion for speech and language therapy, specializing in the treatment of adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. After working at a middle school and then as the program director for Acing Autism, Pugliese branched off to start her own non-profit, Love Serving Autism, in Florida in 2017.

One in 59 children have autism, and Love Serving Autism’s mission is to create an adaptive pathway for the red, orange and green ball levels, expanding life skills (particularly communication) through specialized therapeutic tennis instruction.

Backed by the USTA and generous donations, Love Serving Autism is sending 24 players to the US Open for the Net Generation Kids on Court Demonstration on August 31. The children will get a chance to play on one of the stadium courts, where Pugliese once competed at as a junior.