NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For 17-year-old tennis enthusiast Shelby Lau, Sunday’s free tennis clinic at Central Park was the chance of a lifetime.

“It’s not every day you get to hit with the pros,” she said. “You get to see them up close and personal. It’s completely different to see them in person rather than online.”

As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, the clinic kicked off the U.S. Open, giving the public some pro tips, including from now-retired Murphy Jensen, a former French Open doubles champ, who said the clinic is inspirational to the kids.

“The exposure to get on the court with the players playing the U.S. Open gives them a little hope,” Jensen said.

“It gets people playing,” he added. “It gets people rock ‘n’ rolling on the tennis courts and being active. I don’t care what sport, but it just happens to be the great game of tennis, which is pretty cool.”

Jensen said Venus and Serena Williams got their starts at a public court in California, so perhaps the next superstar was in Sunday’s crowd.

“I love everything about tennis — the tennis players, the way you hit the ball,” said 9-year-old Shanteja Mills. “It’s very unique”

The clinic is put on in partnership with City Parks Tennis, which gives free lessons every summer to thousands of kids in all five boroughs.