The Citi Open demonstrates the financial institution's commitment to investing in the futures of HBCU tennis athletes and programs.
Professional men's tennis player Frances Tiafoe and Morgan State's head tennis coach Matthew Townes participated in HBCU-related activities for the Citi Open clinic at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, on Aug. 1.
The Citi-sponsored event allowed local HBCU tennis players the opportunity to meet and play with Tiafoe and learn from Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (WTEF) coaches. One deserving student-athlete was awarded a $10,000 grant for their education at an HBCU. The funds will be used across various expenses (tuition, room and board, books, school supplies, etc.), and the student was recognized on court during the Citi Open.
"At Citi, we're always looking for ways to provide HBCU students with the helpful tools on their path to professional success and to celebrate their accomplishments," Kristen Solheim, Citi's Director of Government Affairs, said. "We're thrilled to be hosting this clinic with WTEF and support them as their organization awards one deserving student a $10,000 grant to attend an HBCU. We continue to use our partnerships in sports and entertainment to move that work forward."
Citi is investing in the education and athletic pursuits of HBCUs. Morgan State's head tennis coach Matt Townes told HBCU Legends, "At Morgan State, we are always looking for new avenues to grow with the new leadership brought in. We are doing just that. I think having this WTEF Clinic provided by Citi is a great opportunity to connect with the community and see and experience everything firsthand while also providing opportunities for HBCU growth as a whole, not just Morgan State."
MATTHEW TOWNES Q&A
How valuable is it for Citi to sponsor this clinic and support HBCUs and Morgan State?
"Having this WTEF Clinic, sponsored by Citi, as well as other HBCU-tied clinics, is fundamental to the growth of HBCU tennis programs. It gives aspiring young tennis players the opportunity to compete and play at a high level. Additionally, it exposes our HBCU programs as an option for the type of kids we're looking for, especially Morgan State. It's great Citi is supporting WTEF as they provide a $10,000 grant for a student to put toward their education at an HBCU, which can be used across various expenses. This support allows for students to focus on their studies and training."
Are your players also going to attend matches and watch the pros later in the week?
"Oh, absolutely! It's such a great opportunity to have the youth really learn firsthand from some of the greatest in the world like Frances [Tiafoe], Venus [Williams], Sloane [Stephens], and so many more! They help represent and drive visibility to the tennis community and inspire young black players in DC and across the US, especially those looking to play on one of the biggest stages."
FRANCES TIAFOE Q&A
What are your thoughts on how the Citi Open clinic helps grow the game for HBCU student-athletes and young players in the DC area? And, working with Citi to develop the game of tennis?
"Competing at the Citi Open and joining Citi and the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF) to empower Black youth directly is an honor and a privilege. It's nice to take a break from competing and share some of my own personal anecdotes and life lessons with aspiring HBCU students. Representation in tennis is imperative, and I'm honored to be a homegrown figure to showcase what is capable within the sport while also providing exposure to HBCU tennis programs across the US."
What advice do you have for HBCU programs and players to help give back to the game of tennis in DC and across the country?
To be able to directly give back to the community that has raised me and offer guidance to youth who are aspiring and current HBCU students is extremely rewarding. I'm grateful that Citi is investing in the future of these students and supporting the WTEF as they provide a grant towards their education. My advice is that there are going to be challenges along the way, but it's so important to seize opportunities when they arise because you may not get them again. If you never take that shot and you don't put in the work, the opportunity will pass you by."
How important is it for you to work with not only the men's players but also the women's players at the event?
?With the WTA returning to the Citi Open, it's clear that equality within our tennis community is a priority. We're trying to influence the next generation of tennis players, both men, and women. Participating in the WTEF clinic, sponsored by Citi, is an opportunity to celebrate the HBCU tennis programs that young tennis players can pursue while also providing exposure and opportunity - which I think is key when trying to create equitable change in our industry."