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.