| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

Longines, the official timekeeper and partner of the French Open, has announced that 16 junior female tennis players from the United States ages 12-and-under will compete in a one-day Longines Future Tennis Aces–On the Road to the French Open qualifying tournament with the winner earning a once in a lifetime trip to Paris to play on the famous clay courts at Roland Garros against qualifiers from 16 other nations.

Building on the success of this same event over the past three years, the Longines Future Tennis Aces U.S. qualifying tournament will take place April 14 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the U.S. Open, in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., and will include selected players from the USTA Eastern, Middle States, New England and, for the first time in event history, Northern California Sections. Names of selected athletes to compete are to be announced.

These young tennis stars will compete for the grand prize: Funding that will finance their sports equipment until their 16th birthday and the privilege to play with Longines Ambassador of Elegance and six-time French Open champion Stefanie Graf, wife of tennis legend and fellow Longines Ambassador of Elegance Andre Agassi, also a former French Open winner.

Graf, who has been a Longines Ambassador of Elegance since 2007, will assist in selecting the 16 girls, who were asked to write a 300-word essay on philanthropy. The girls will be selected on two criteria: Athletic performance and commitment to give back to the community. At the conclusion of play in Paris, Longines will present a check for $100,000 to the two foundations of its ambassadors: The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education and Graf’s Children for Tomorrow.

The runner-up of this year’s Longines Future Tennis Aces, a USTA-sanctioned event, will earn two courtside tickets to the 2012 U.S. Open with the third-place consolation victor winning two loge tickets to this year’s Open. All participants will have the opportunity to hit with 1993 French Open doubles champion and current Syracuse University women’s tennis coach Luke Jensen.

Michael Chen Zhao of Princeton Junction, N.J., won the Longines Future Tennis Aces qualifying event last year and represented the United States at Roland Garros, where he competed against 16 boys, 12-and-under, from every corner of the world.

Back in November, the first of the 16 girls was awarded entry into the Longines Future Tennis Aces on the Road to the French Open as 12-year-old Elena Van Linge from Menlo Park, Calif., won a fastest serve contest beating out 20 others with Andre Agassi looking on. The event was held at the Stanford Shopping Center and put on with the help of fine jeweler Shreve & Co. Van Linge will represent the USTA’s Northern California Section at next month’s New York tournament.