Although Mayor Bloomberg jets to Bermuda to play tennis, New York City has a surprising number of high-quality public tennis courts. Caren Seenauth knows the courts almost as well as Queens-born John McEnroe. Seenauth, a 24-year-old New Yorker, started playing tennis when she was six; by 15, she was ranked fourth in New York State. (That’s her in the red University of Miami tank.) After all that court time, she’s definitely got some favorite places to play which she recently shared with Well + Good.
Her first bit of advice: Invest in a season permit for $100. It allows you to reserve a court online or by phone for $7/hour at Central Park and Prospect Park courts, which are well-maintained, and gives you access to many others on a first-come, first-served basis. (If you don’t want to buy a permit, you can still use the city’s free first-come, first-served courts.) By comparison, playing at private court is anywhere from $75–$100 per hour. Plus the public courts are where you’ll see the serious fashion accessories—hot right now are old-school tube socks, lots of yellow, and flesh toned skivvies. At least if you’re a Williams sister.
SEENAUTH’S FAVORITE COURTS
Pier 40 – Hudson River Park
“Pier 40 in the West Village has three lighted courts. I love them not only because they’re free, but they’re located right on the Hudson and offer stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and downtown Jersey City,” says Seenauth.
The scene: Tom and Giselle have been spotted playing here. Overall the scene is Tribeca bankers and Christopher Street gay couples meets the occasional downtown celebrity
Nabbing a court: No permit needed. The free courts are first come, first serve but the wait is well worth it because they’re in great condition.
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, Queens
You don’t have to be Federer or Nadal to play on the world’s largest public tennis facility and home of the U.S. Open. “I love playing here because with nearly 100 courts I hardly ever have to wait and knowing that I am on the same courts as some of the game’s greatest players always triggers the best in my game,” says Seenauth. Also best place to improve your game? The pros here, who are arguably the country’s best.
The scene: Tween tennis hopefuls in training, U.S. Open wannabes, and Long Island City casual players
Nabbing a court: There are (often steep) fees to use the facilities and leagues and lessons are available through the USTA.
Central Park Tennis Center
It’s a huge public tennis facility with 30 courts featuring both clay and hard surfaces. “It’s a great for an afternoon game with friends,” says Seenauth, who also spies a lot of families out for some exercise here—and a mix of good and bad examples of tennis fashion. (Seenauth is anti-denim, pro frilly feminine ruffles, and totally over the knee-high tube-sock look.) The tennis center offers convenient restrooms, a snack bar, and a rare pro shop that offers racket service.
The scene: Everyone from Mayor Dinkins to the ladies who cut the line at Zabars
Nabbing a court: Permit required, plus a small hourly fee. Permit holders can book online.