Most of the blue seats at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, NY were empty. Zachary could see the sun casting a shadow across them, to the perfectly matched blue U.S. Open tennis courts. The 2014 U.S. Open would start later that day, but Zachary wasn’t about to take his seat. The 10-year-old wish kid from Michigan was headed to the main level, where only the players and select people could go.
Behind the scenes of the world-class tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Zachary – who has played tennis since he was 4 years old – rubbed shoulders with the professional players. He sparked a conversation with Roger Federer, a Swiss professional who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world.
“I like that he (Federer) hits with the same racket I do – Wilson,” Zachary said.
Zachary and his older sister Madeleine were diagnosed with multiple cerebral cavernous angiomas, a condition where tumor-like lesions form and cause the risk of brain bleeding, in July 2013. Their mom, Kim, was in shock at the number of tumors found in Zachary, but the condition was all too familiar to the family.
“We as a family had already seen firsthand the consequences of what happens when one of (the tumors) bleed,” Kim said. “My husband has had two brain surgeries in the past five years, including a craniotomy.”
Every year, Zachary and his family head to Chicago to undergo MRIs to monitor his condition. He hates to miss school, but his mom said he remains incredibly social and focuses on what he loves - tennis and his friends.
Kim said they heard of Make-A-Wish Michigan through a close friend, whose son had received a wish. After Zachary was referred, it was no surprise he wished to attend the U.S. Open.
“I have always wanted to (meet) a real professional tennis player since I love playing tennis so much,” Zachary said.
The wish provided quality time for Zachary and his family to relax without the worry of travel arrangements or daily routines.
“It gave us the opportunity to simply enjoy time together where we weren’t thinking about what might happen or could happen, but just enjoy our time together,” Kim said. “For Zachary, it will be something he remembers for the rest of his life. It isn’t every day you meet one of the all-time greatest tennis players in the world.”