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USTA Helps Fund De-Mining

February 13, 2003|Bud Collins | Special to the Times

MEKUSJE, Croatia — There has been no tennis for a long time in this village 30 miles west of the capital, Zagreb. But for good reason: The local court lies at the center of a minefield left over from the war against invading Serbs a decade ago.

It is an inviting tennis court, but the kids of this village can only peer at it longingly, especially after watching the televised exploits of their countrymen beating the United States, 4-1, in the Davis Cup at Zagreb a few days ago.

Kids, and adults too, would like to try their hands at imitating Ivan Ljubicic, whose strong serving highlighted the victory. But the neighborhood court might as well be on Mars. It's strictly off-limits, held hostage, as are the villagers, by live mines that continue to threaten them with lethal explosions.

But that will change soon. The American tennis expeditionary force may have lost, but the U.S. Tennis Assn. is winning friends around here through a decision to help liberate that court with a $25,000 contribution to the Croatian government's de-mining program. More than a million potent land mines, planted by the invaders and defenders, remain as hazards throughout this small country.

According to Ambassador Lawrence Rossin, the U.S. government will match the USTA donation, and the $50,000 to be spent on mine-clearing in this area should be sufficient to relieve Mekusje of its constant danger.

"This is our way of showing support to the people of Croatia who have been incredible hosts to us and our team," USTA President Alan Schwartz said. "It's reassuring that these contributions will help the people of Mekusje enjoy tennis again."

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