By Justin DeMarco

The US Open hasn’t officially begun, but a new world record has already been set at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

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Mardy Fish and Andrea Petkovic were part of a team of 658 New York-area children and adults who broke the Guinness World Records title for “Most people bouncing tennis balls on tennis racquets in one location.”

The official rules stated that each person had to bounce the ball for at least 10 seconds on his or her racket in order to be counted. The drill is known as “ups” and helps develop hand-eye coordination.

The top ranked American in the world, who has been doing “ups” since he was three years old, tried to break the concentration of Petkovic by grabbing her arm as she bounced the ball up and down.

(credit: Justin DeMarco)

“I’m very focused and didn’t even feel it,” the No. 11 ranked woman said. “I think he wanted to distract the world from him not being able to ‘up’ the ball himself.”

Before the record, which was previously at 383 and set five years ago in England, was broken, Fish joked that’d Petkovic would do the “Petko Dance” in celebration. Petkovic didn’t do her trademark funky footwork and hip shaking as she usually does to pay tribute to her fans when she wins a match, but she did take the official Guinness World Records certificate and hoist it in the air as if she won the women’s singles trophy at the US Open.

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Petkovic and Fish were great sports throughout the day and took the time to sign autographs, take photos, and offer tennis advice to the young players in attendance.

“I never did anything like this when I was a kid,” Fish said. “It’s nice to be out here seeing all the kids who love tennis. I’m happy to be a part of it.”

One of those kids was 8-year old, Deshawn, who practiced “ups” for three weeks in preparation for the big day and jumped up and down when his hard work paid off. Even after the event, Deshawn wouldn’t take his tennis racquet out of his hands.

“With a fun introduction to tennis in their early years, the sport can become a lifetime passion for many kids, and not just on the competitive level,” Mike Steck, Global Director of Marketing for Wilson Racquet Sports, said. “Few sports offer as much in terms of pure physical exercise, conditioning, and social interaction with fellow players.”

Or as Fish put it: “I hope today’s event provided them with the inspiration to stay in the game.”

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Considering that most of the children and their parents stuck around to watch the free qualifying matches today, it looks like the enthusiasm and excitement is there.