Nassau youth tennis player gets lifetime thrill at U.S. Open

Nassau youth tennis player gets lifetime thrill at U.S. Open
2022 champion, Carlos Alcaraz and Nassau Co. 12-year-old Brij Vashist (right) pose with the trophy after Alcatraz wins a men's singles championship match at the 2022 US Open, Sunday, Sep. 11, 2022 in Flushing, NY. (Pete Staples/USTA)


Twelve-year-old Brij Vashist had one thought while waiting to go out on television Sept. 11 before 24,000 fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium and millions more watching on TV:

“Don’t walk too fast, because you look really good today and Dad brushed your hair and everything.”

Well, OK, he had a few more thoughts as well, but that was the one he said was his final one before striding out as part of the U.S. Open men’s singles final trophy ceremony.

Vashist, one of the top 12-and-under players on the East Coast (he’s currently ranked No. 15 in USTA Eastern), was one of two youth players honored by the USTA to walk out the championship and runners-up trophies last Sunday after the men’s final, in which Carlos Alcaraz (only seven years older than Brij) defeated Casper Ruud.

Vashist, who lives in Hicksville and is in 7th grade, was introduced to millions as being from the Port Washington Tennis Academy, where he played for much of last winter. (Vasisht plays at several clubs around Nassau County throughout the year.)

“It was so exciting but soooo nerve-wracking,” Vashist said in a phone interview a few days after his national TV debut. “Like I knew everyone I knew would be watching, and there were so many famous tennis players (on the stage) right around me. I didn’t want to trip or break the trophy or something, you know?”

Neil Thakur, the school tennis manager and community tennis coordinator for USTA Long Island/Metro, explained that Brij was one of many kids who applied to be chosen as coin tossers, trophy holders and other ceremonial duties at the U.S. Open.

“We basically look at the kids who’ve been doing well in the various regions, most of them have to be close in proximity to the Open,” Thakur said.  “And Brij has been doing well in the junior tournaments. We thought this was a good way to honor him.”
Vashist said after filling out the application he didn’t think he had a chance to win, although he allowed himself to dream about it. One day, he said he woke up from a nap to get a drink of water and found his father, Nav Vashist, looking at him sternly.
“My parents said they got a letter for me, and my Dad told me to come sit down,” Brij recalled. “I thought maybe I got a letter from school saying I did something bad, but then I was like ‘I didn’t do anything wrong at school.’
“And then he showed me the email that I had gotten chosen and we were so excited.”
Nav Vashist said he and wife Sonia were overjoyed that Brij was picked.
“The application said they were looking for kids who are obsessed with tennis, and no one is more obsessed with tennis than my son,” Nav Vashist said with a chuckle. “And then the day he did it, with getting great seats and going down toward the end of the match, and seeing him in front of all those people, it was surreal. Like an out of body experience.”
Brij, who said he’s a huge Novak Djokovic fan, said he watched videos and studied past trophy ceremonies so he would know what to do. Once he got out to the Ashe Stadium court, he said he stood near John McEnroe and “was hoping I wouldn’t mess anything up.”
After the trophies were awarded, Brij said he got to meet and fist-bump the new champion, Alcaraz, and take some photos.
At Hicksville Middle School the next day, he said his teachers kept coming up to him and congratulating him, but most of his friends had no idea about his big moment.
“They’re not into tennis, and I’m not into bragging,” he said.
Brij’s goal, not surprisingly, is to one day have some other kid hand him the U.S. Open trophy, and play pro tennis at as high a level as possible.
“I want to go vs. Alcaraz one day!” he said. “Or if I can’t play pro, play in college. But definitely keep playing as long as I can. Because tennis is the best sport.”



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