The idea of year-round tennis may be anathema to most top pros, as we’ve been discussing—sometimes hotly—in these pages, but as a player who grew up in the northeast, being able to play tennis outdoors, in the winter, was not just an opportunity, it was a unique experience at every level.
So I want to take a brief respite from the exhausting and sometimes bitter pro tennis debates to pass along an item on wintertime tennis that made my long neglected, deeply buried Inner Tennis Nut leap with joy . . .
Back in the day, I was almost happy to see the leaves falling and clouds the color of gunmetal sail swiftly through turbulent November skies. For it meant that the heavily used tennis courts, including the ones in New York’s Central Park, would soon be vacant.
That meant that our coterie of devoted players would soon have them all to ourselves, for as long as we wanted. Imagine: two hours of singles, then four of doubles, and home to eat and collapse into bed. It was good to be young.
In fact, my finest and most vividly remembered day of tennis occurred one February, when I was in my 20s. We had a massive snowfall and the next day was bright, still, and relatively warm—about 35 degrees. With friends, we spent two hours shoveling off a pair of courts in a park in Montclair, New Jersey. Then, for the rest of the day, we played tennis—often having to retrieve the balls from the high snowbanks around the court.
Some winter tennis tips: String with nylon and take about a dozen balls; the ones that roll through melting snow or ice get so wet and heavy that you can hurt your arm whacking them.
Don’t overdress—you’ll be surprised at how little you’ll need to wear once you get moving, and freedom of movement is essential to enjoying the winter game. A pair of old-school waffle-pattern thermals under baggy shorts and a T-shirt will be all you need for all but the nastiest (meaning windy) of days—and just think, you’ll be observing Wimbledon’s predominantly white rule!
If you wear a hat, especially the watch-cap type, beware post-match perspiration freeze-up; you may have to hit your forehead with a hair dryer when you get home to get the hat unstuck from your forehead. It's a Something About Mary moment . . .
And, most important, if you must wear gloves, try using a sleeve made from a tube sock (with the toe cut off). You can slip that over your hand and lower arm, then slide the racquet handle inside. You’ll still have skin—and feel—on your grip, but sufficient warmth.
TennisWorld. It's a beautiful place.