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6-year-old boy upstaged John McEnroe at 1989 Davis Cup

Ryan Redondo remembers his big moment on center court that changed his life and inspired him to bring professional tennis to San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — In 1989, one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world came to the San Diego Sports Arena, but all eyes were on a six-year-old boy. In this Zevely Zone, I visited the Barnes Tennis Center where that little boy is all grown up. 

This story is proof that for some people it just takes one magical moment to alter a life forever. During the Davis Cup in 1989, a six-year-old boy named Ryan Redondo was asked to hit balls on center court with a professional tennis player from France. "I had no idea. He just grabbed me, grabbed a racquet and we just started hitting," said Ryan who is now 39-years old.

Credit: Youth Tennis San Diego

The French pro, Henri Leconte was in the middle of a Davis Cup tennis match with John McEnroe who had to take a bathroom break. During that break, Leconte and Ryan entertained the crowd at center court by hitting balls back and forth for several minutes. 

"Wow, ha, ha, ha," laughed Ryan as he watched video from that special night in 1989. The longer their rally went on, the louder thousands of fans cheered. "Oh, my goodness, look at his movements he is so energetic," said Ryan about Leconte who kept the rally going and going. 

I asked Ryan if he remembers being nervous. "I do," said Ryan. Yet there he was chasing one ball deep into the court and hitting an amazing backhand to keep the rally going even longer.

Credit: Youth Tennis San Diego

Eventually John McEnroe returned to center court. "Yeah, here comes McEnroe, he's probably like what's going on here," laughed Ryan. "Yeah, he's like what is going on here?"  Ryan's big moment was covered by ESPN and that's not all. "I got sponsored by NIKE full clothing shoes everything, as a 6-year-old," said Ryan. 

He also grew up to become an All-American tennis player at San Diego State and more. "I coached college tennis for 14 years," said Ryan who is now the  CEO of Youth Tennis San Diego. The non-profit organization reaches out to thousands of kids wanting to learn the game. 

I asked Ryan how it makes him feel to see children fall in love with tennis the way he did. "I don't know if I have all of the words to even express it," said Ryan. "It gives you goosebumps to see somebody or even an adult connect with a tennis ball."

Credit: Youth Tennis San Diego

Ryan also runs the Barnes Tennis Center in Point Loma. "The vision that I had coming in here was that we can make San Diego and the Barnes Tennis Center the mecca of tennis in the world," said Ryan. 

From September 17-25, the San Diego Open ATP 250 for men comes to the Barnes Tennis Center.  Then from October 8-16, the San Diego Open WTA 500 for women comes to the Barnes Tennis Center. Both tournaments feature some of the top professional players in the world. 

"Ultimately the reason why we do this is so that the kids who are either ball kids or in the stadium get that inspiration to want to play the game," said Ryan. Just like he did in 1989, when Henri Leconte tried to give him a parting gift. Leconte wanted to give Ryan his racquet after their time on center court. It was an act of generosity Ryan, as a six-year-old, couldn't comprehend. "Look I am trying to give the racquet back, ha, ha. I was in shock that he gave me his racquet," said Ryan. He asked Leconte, "Do you want the racquet back? Ha, ha, ha, ha. I tried giving it back three times."

Credit: Youth Tennis San Diego

You never know when your life may change forever but when it does. make sure you live in your moment then pay it forward. John McEnroe won that David Cup match in 1989 but may have been helped in part by Ryan Redondo wore down his French competitor. "Yeah exactly," laughed Ryan. "Gosh I had not seen that in 20 plus years."

The San Diego Open ATP 250 men’s professional tennis tournament will be played September 17-25 and the San Diego WTA 500 women’s professional tennis event will be played October 8-16. Both events will be played at San Diego’s Barnes Tennis Center. This is the first time in San Diego sports history that both men’s and women’s tour-level tournaments are being played in the same year.

RELATED: San Diego tennis legends compete in National Hard Court Championship

The Barnes Tennis Center has an outreach tennis program where they take tennis to SD County schools. Click here link for more information

RELATED: 'Tennis Twins' are a San Diego sibling success story

The cost of entering junior tennis tournaments is prohibitive. Realizing this, Ryan established the Junior Tennis Underwriting Master Plan (J.U.M.P.).  The Plan provides monthly beginning tennis tournaments at Barnes Tennis Center with no tournament fees. Click here for more information

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