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Andy Murray, Serena Williams play tennis with Queens schoolchildren

Serena Williams speaks to the press at the

Serena Williams speaks to the press at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (Aug. 22, 2013) Credit: Errol Anderson

If 9-year-old Jenna Cozier didn't fully grasp the significance of what she did Thursday, her mother sure did.

"My daughter was Andy Murray's doubles partner," said Maureen Cozier, still in awe moments after Jenna stepped off the court with the reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion.

Jenna was among two dozen elementary school children from Queens neighborhoods devastated by superstorm Sandy who had the rare opportunity to play tennis with two of the world's best -- Murray and women's defending U.S. Open champ Serena Williams.

The U.S. Tennis Association worked with the charity New York Cares to surprise the children with the all-star youth tennis clinic at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing -- part of a week of festivities leading up to the two-week U.S. Open tournament.

Many of the children from PS 207 in Howard Beach and the Action Center, a Far Rockaway youth group, had never picked up a tennis racket before, organizers said. But watching the joy they had in swatting balls into the stands reminded Murray of why he fell in love with the sport.

"I used to play with my brother a lot when I was that age, and you just charge around the court and hit the ball as hard as you can," said Murray, who is Scottish.

As a child, he said, "I would have loved to play with Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras."

Teachers and organizers said it was especially gratifying to see the students have so much fun, considering what their lives have been like since the Oct. 29 storm, which destroyed many of their homes and displaced them from their schools for months.

"To them, at this point, it's getting back to a little bit of normalcy with something like this," said Nelson Sarweh, program director for the Action Center, which was severely flooded during the storm. "This was a real great thing -- inviting us here so we could be a part of this."

Sitting in the stands after the clinic, Michelly Tejada, 8, said her favorite part of the day was "when I got to hit the ball . . . I just wanted to have fun."

"To hear them laugh and just be kids is really the best part," said Cozier, who teaches at PS 207. "They've been through more than most grown-ups have."

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