D.C.

Taylor "Woodie" McKnight uses tennis as therapy

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For Taylor "Woodie" McKnight, the feel of the grip, the sound of the court is everything.

"Some people are just born to do something. You're born to do some things, and I truly believe, deep in my heart, that I was born to play tennis," McKnight said.

For the last five years, the sport has been a kind of therapy.

McKnight added, "Since it's my life dream, it's helped me say, 'Okay, I need to get my life together. I need to power through this.'"

In 2007, McKnight lost his father, Dr. Arnold McKnight, who helped Woodie's home court, the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, get off the ground.

"He was just there, all the time. He was the reason I got into tennis," Woodie explained.

But his father's death was why he quit.

"Things were just spiraling downward, just going down to a deep, dark state," Woodie said. "...just recently, I've been coming out of that and being able to see the light and see a bright future for myself."

He's found comfort on the court, spending seven days a week there, and it's paid off. This weekend, he won a youth event at the 2012 U.S. Open.

Alvin Fludd, Woodie's coach, said, "He really made a remarkable comeback. I think he really wanted to win it for the center, and he did. "

Since it opened 11 years ago, the center has helped thousands of children. For Woodie, the center has become an extension of his family.

"When I come in here, when I walk onto any tennis court, I feel at home. I know it like the back of my hand. I know what I can do," Woodie said.

His mom, Jeanine McKnight, added, "When people say to me, 'Oh, you must be proud of him,' I think, 'I'm more happy for him. I'm happy we're back on track.'"

Woodie hopes to make tennis his life's work by going pro.

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