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Vatican Validation

September 28, 2015 10:53 AM
PTR Board Member Luciano Botti and PTR President Roy Barth enjoy the events in Rome.
Angleo Binaghi, Italian Tennis Federation president, presents Pope Frances with a tennis racquet.

Citing Sport’s Health Benefits, Pope Francis Gives Southern PTR Contingent Audience

By Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern
This story originally ran in the USTA Southern insert into Tennis magazine's September/October 2015 issue.

Tennis has many important friends in high places. None may be higher up, celestially at least, than Pope Francis.

During a special session at the Vatican organized by the Italian Tennis Federation (FIT), the Pope said, “I would … urge each of you to get into the game, not only in sport – as you already do and with excellent results – but in life, the pursuit of the good, the true good, without fear, with courage and enthusiasm.”

Among the 7,000 tennis coaches, families and others in attendance were PTR President Roy Barth, past PTR President Jorge Andrew and Tennis Industry Association Executive Director Jolyn de Boer, who reside in South Carolina.

Barth and Andrew have been longtime prominent USTA Southern volunteers. Barth, a 1999 inductee in the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame, serves on the USTA Collegiate Varsity Committee and is a former chair of the USTA Davis Cup, Fed Cup and Olympic Team Events Committee. Andrew is a member of the USTA Local Play and Competition Committee. Also, de Boer serves on the USTA Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

After the Pope’s remarks, the forum shifted to Foro Italico, site of the Italian Open. There more than 3,000 tennis professionals and coaches met in what has been called the world’s largest tennis symposium. Cardio Tennis, a program managed by the TIA, was presented and demonstrated on the Grand Stand Court by de Boer and TIA Cardio Tennis Manager Michele Krause.

Recalling a magical moment, Andrew said, “We were sitting in fourth row, sitting very close. We saw the Pope was coming all the way down to the front row. He let the kids touch him and he touched their faces, accepting many gifts of tennis balls. It was very, very special.”

Barth gave credit to PTR Board Member Luciano Botti, a native of Italy, for helping connect the Americans with the FIT members. “Luciano has a contact in the Vatican who loves tennis,” Barth said. “A few months (before the event) the audience was set up. … It was great for our sport because he acknowledged tennis. I know this was the best endorsement in the world.”