Cecil Mamiit delivers more than products at Burbank demo day

BURBANK β€” What was supposed to be a showcase of tennis products and services mixed in with a little instruction proved to be much more at Saturday's Cecil Mamiit demonstration day at the Burbank Tennis Center.

The formerly-ranked tennis pro and current South Pasadena resident didn't hesitate in getting hands-on with participants in games and drills and even extended to a few clinic-goers the opportunity to challenge him in doubles play, while offering advice and taking photos well past his 10 a.m.-1 p.m. time slot.

"I grew up in Los Angeles and am a part of this community," said Mamiit, who won the defunct Burbank Challenger Tournament held at the tennis center in 1996 and 2000. "I've had some success in my life and my professional career and want to share some of my experiences with the community."

Mamiit's appearance was part of an arrangement between the Tennis Mechanix Pro Shop, located at the tennis center and run by Mamiit's college buddy Joel Dacay, and by HEAD Penn Racquet Sports, which displayed several of its racquet models for sale.

Only two months earlier, Mamiit was on the clay courts of Roland Garros helping lead his hitting partner, World Tennis Assn. third-ranked Maria Sharapova, to a 2012 French Open championship.

On Saturday, Mamiit encountered several aspiring Sharapovas and Roger Federers, with the biggest thrill of the day coming at the end of the camp when Mamiit and current USC junior Ray Sarmiento invited different fans to participate in short games.

One the final games paired Mamiit and 11-year-old Olivier Mascarade of Burbank versus eight-year-old Tony Grigorian of Porter Ranch and Sarmiento.

While Mamiit delivered a blistering ace for one point and Sarmiento volleyed a baseline shot between his legs, the game-clinching shot came from Mascarade, who delivered a cross-court smash that clinched a 6-5 victory.

"I'm always going to remember that. That was my best shot of the day," Mascarade said. "It feels great to hit it and to win."

Grigorian, who had "expected to be on Mamiit's team," was still thrilled in going toe-to-toe with Mamiit, who has career victories over American icons Andre Agassi and Michael Chang.

"This felt really good. I didn't know what to expect out there," Grigorian said. "Playing against Cecil was great."

Sarmiento, who's won two team national titles with reigning four-time champion USC, also enjoyed the experience.

"I remember what it was like to be in those shoes," said Sarmiento, who grew up in Glendale and said one of his life's highlights was playing against Agassi at the Los Angeles Open when he was 12. "I played here at the Burbank Tennis Center from the ages of 6-12 under [current instructor] Harout [Khachatrian] and I'll always owe some of my success to the lessons learned here."

Besides the doubles action, there were also basic drills clinics and a target practice skills competition.

Overall, HEAD conducted three different demonstrations, including one specifically geared toward beginning youths, which gained the approval of nine-year-old Priya Singh of Burbank.

"I think I liked the forehand drill and the box drill best," Singh said. "We did a lot work, but it was fun."

Besides the demo day, Mamiit also teamed with Dacay to run the Tennis Mechanix Academy, which is holding instruction from Monday through Friday. Both are also on the final stages of formalizing their own tennis academy, which is set to debut in the fall.

For more information on the Tennis Mechanix Academy, call (818) 252-9922 or send questions to tennismechanix@gmail.com.

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