Playing tennis in the Hamptons always adds some extra zest to playing that wonderful game. Yes, it is the game with those racquets and those fuzzy balls that you have to hit on the first bounce. Then there’s that scoring system that makes no sense with sets, games, love, advantage not to mention all those deuces. The real problem is the players.
The players are getting older. When I last spoke to East Hampton Indoor Tennis General Manager Scott Rubenstein, he said the medium age of the players is “greying.” Rubenstein, who has been a staple of the Hamptons tennis scene for years, loves the game of tennis. He seemed sort of broken hearted as he explained how the young students of the game just are too bombarded with other options for their free time. “No one just hangs around like they use to,” Rubenstein went on to say. “Too often they come they play, practice, take a lesson and leave.”
The demographics from the USTA portray a robust over 40’s league, with competition participation that is stronger in the older age brackets. One team captain told me he has intact the same team he fielded 20 years ago, laughing, he said, “We just don’t do as well in three set matches!” He also said it’s tough to sit a loyal player for a new guy after so many years of service to the team.
Yet the new players are better than ever with power games that blow old-timers off the court. When I was 50, I played the reigning NY State 18 and under champ James Moore, who later played #1 at Columbia. Our match was the first round of the New York Athletic Club Championships. Within minutes my goal was to not to win, but to just not get hurt as serves whizzed at me at over 120 MPH. I lost 6-1, 6-1 but truth be known James Moore, who had known me his whole life, actually went out of his way not to bury me.
Over the years I have had fun covering or attending many Pro-Ams and fund raising tournaments in the Hamptons. One favorite was at the still new wonderful Ross School Tennis facility. Michael Milken raised $1 million for prostate cancer in one day while high net individuals ponied up tens of thousands to team with pros like Jimmy Conners, Johan Kreik, and Jimmy Arias to help raise money to fight that cancer. The Ross School also has held its own pro-am and round robin events to raise funds for School programs, scholarships and charities. In recent years the Jim Grabb, Andre Agassi, Venus Williams, and Serena Williams have stopped in at the fundraisers as well as numerous local celebrities like Christie Brinkley and Alec Baldwin.
My tennis mentor and friend, William J. Tully, player in 14 U.S. Championships (now the U.S. Open) and winner of the 1947 Canadian Open, who is now in his mid 80’s, reminisced about tournaments he played at the Meadow Club in Southampton. There he opposed the likes of Bobby Riggs, Jack Kramer, Bill Talbert, and Gardner Malloy, who all played to tune up on the grass courts before the U.S. Championships, then played on grass at Forest Hills. In the days before the tiebreaker, Bill played the great Poncho Gonzalez at the Meadow Club in the mid-1950’s losing 9-7, 6-3. “Wow! He said, “That guy was tough.” I hope to see many of you on the courts throughout the Hamptons this year.
Where To Play?
Sportime in Amagansett is the largest Hamptons tennis facility with 34 outdoor courts, most being of har-tru, which is crushed pebbles, a surface that is easy on the legs, cooler and dries faster. East Hampton Indoor Tennis, located on 175 Daniel’s Hole Road in East Hampton, has 20 outdoor har-tru courts and eight indoor courts which are open all year.
Buckskill Tennis Club, located on 178 Buckskill Road in East Hampton, is the only public club with “grass courts,” three of which for public use. They are therefore the only public facility in the Hamptons with all three major surfaces used in tennis – har-tru, grass, and the hard courts called deco-turf (cork, asphalt and cement).
Montauk has public facilities at Montauk Downs and on Westlake Drive and most of the high schools in the Hamptons have public courts available when school is not in session. There are town courts also, as well as ones at many of the resorts.