Has watching the Williams sisters rule the courts got you thinking about playing a bit of tennis yourself? You don’t need to pay the price of a monthly gym membership for a single session at a Manhattan club: Make use of the city’s public outdoor facilities for next to nothing this fall (we’ll tell you how to do it), and when winter comes, even indoor tennis can be affordable if you’re willing to head to the outer boroughs.
You’ll need a $5 permit for the following city-owned courts. (Each borough has its own distribution sites; call 212-360-8133 for locations.) Enjoy cool breezes off the Hudson River and play on one of ten beautifully landscaped red-clay courts at the Riverside Park Tennis Courts. Call to see if you can compete in a seasonal tournament. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the end of November. Courts are at Riverside Drive and 97th Street; enter at 96th Street. Downtown, you can use twelve hard courts at the East River Park Tennis Courts; first come, first to serve. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Courts are under the Williamsburg Bridge, just east of the FDR Drive. Brooklynites, look no further than Fort Greene Park, which has six hard courts. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. as long as weather permits. Enter the Park at DeKalb Avenue or South Portland Avenue.
It might seem a world away, but play at the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club and we bet you’ll start looking forward to the five-minute tram ride to get there. The climate-controlled club has twelve indoor green-clay courts. Lessons and teaching clinics are available. Panoramic views of the Upper East Side to boot. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; rates start at $35 per hour (281 Main Street, Roosevelt Island; 212-935-0250). Just eight minutes from Manhattan by shuttle bus or car, Randalls Island Tennis Center has eleven outdoor courts that are open until mid-October, as well as four indoor all-weather courts. If you don’t have a partner, the center will arrange a match with an opponent of similar ability. Court fees start at $32 per hour. A shuttle bus leaves from Third Avenue, between 86th and 87th streets, on the hour starting at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends; round-trip tickets are $10 (212-534-4845).