Why is it so hard to play tennis in NYC?

Jelena Jankovic at The Family Circle Cup

Tennis is one of my favorite sports both to watch and to play. But since moving to NYC, my own game has suffered. Recently Ray and I were inspired by the French Open and the beautiful weather to try to hit the courts. This is a rare occasion partly because the nearest courts are a 15 minute walk away and partly because it costs $30 for the two of us to play for one hour, and you usually have to wait to get a court. It really irritates me that the city courts charge so much for residents to use city courts. In every other city I’ve lived in, there has been free access and unlimited play. I understand that New York is bigger and there is more demand, but $30 for an hour is more than I pay for a Pilates or Yoga class. But we got over all of that and headed out.

The Central Park courts are like a little compound complete with locker room, pro shop, etc. Way more than I need. It’s clear that the people on the courts play often. The caliber of tennis is high. My own game is not that good anymore and there are usually some apologies to my neighbors for mis-hits. So we arrive and go to buy the pass to play and the worker asks me if I have other shoes to play in. Why would I have other shoes? The one other time we played on these courts I wore the exact same shoes. These shoes are similar to most of the other tennis shoes I’ve worn throughout my 20 years playing the game. Apparently there is a rule (not sure if it’s new) that you have to wear soft soled shoes. Somehow Ray’s shoes made the cut. We’re still not completely sure how our shoes were different. So after all of that, we weren’t allowed on the courts.

Because I don’t play more than 2-3 times a season, I’m not going to buy specific shoes for tennis, so now I can’t play on the public courts at all! But that isn’t even the most frustrating part about all of this… there are tennis courts behind a local school just around the corner from our apartment. They are never in use on the nights and weekends because they are locked up! These perfectly good courts could be opened to the public. I’m sure this is happening all over the city. It’s really disappointing because tennis is such a wonderful sport that can be enjoyed by all ages and skill levels. I’d really like to see the city make it more accessible to all residents.