This article appears in the July/August 2020 issue of New York Tennis Magazine. You can read the full digital edition by clicking here
When the original surge of COVID-19 cases swept across the United States, there was perhaps no region that felt the effects of the pandemic more than New York City. With a population of more than eight million, and a very dense population, the coronavirus pandemic hit NYC extremely hard.
But the lockdowns put in place early on has helped flatten the curve in New York, while other places throughout the country continue to see a rise in cases. The measures taken have allowed the city to reopen, not fully, but considering where the city was at the beginning of the pandemic, New York should be proud of how far it has come.
And with that, tennis has been allowed to reopen, with outdoor tennis back and summer camps getting underway in New York City and in the greater Tri-State area.
As tennis reopens, it’s clear that there is a desire by the public to get back to playing the sport it loves.
“We are incredibly excited to see players out and smiling on courts again after what has undoubtedly been a rough couple months for everybody in the city,” USTA Eastern Executive Director and COO Jenny Schnitzer. “So far, the feedback we’ve received from our NYC providers has been positive. People are really craving physical activity and coming out to play. Some are even picking up a racquet for the first time, which we love to see.”
In order to safely reopen, the clubs and facilities have put in proper safety measures and protocols, using guidelines both by the CDC and the USTA, to ensure that tennis is played safely, and to avoid the possibility of creating another surge of COVID-19.
“Sportime Randall's Island, our NYC flagship location, was not allowed to reopen its outdoor courts until June 22. The good news, in addition to that most of us are safe and healthy, and that New York has done a great job fighting the virus, is that the outdoor tennis business, at our sites, and generally, has been robust, virtually from the day courts were allowed to open in New York,” said Claude Okin, CEO of Sportime Clubs. “The pent up demand for tennis and recreation is reflected in the levels of tennis play and programming during the month of June, and continuing into July that are substantially greater than in 2019. This is very promising, and it does seem as if tennis, outdoors and indoors, is and will remain a safe ‘go to’ during the pandemic and in its aftermath.”
The clubs have used all the proper precautions, such as placing hand sanitizing stations in their lobbies and out on every court, while also creating clearly labeled entrances and exits to create a flow of traffic coming in and out of their respective buildings, to limit the amount of contact people have with one another.
The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has introduced curbside drop off and pick-up for its campers coming to the site each day. All campers fill out a health questionnaire on their phone and get their temperature checked before being allowed to enter the building to keep a safe environment on its campus, and the facility has adhered to all the guidelines laid out by the USTA and the State of New York.
“We are allowing about 40 percent of our normal daily capacity for summer camps. We have multiple starting times, we stagger meals, and each student had their own table for lunch,” said Whitney Kraft, Director of the National Tennis Center. “The camp is fully outdoor this summer. Though unique and challenging, we were able to use the space that we had effectively. If it rained or there was excessive heat, we used the breezeways and awnings, and activated other activities like pickleball and table tennis.”
Over in New Jersey, a state that was also hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the clubs and facilities are reopened as well, and there has been a strong desire for that tennis community to return to the court, and some sort of normalcy, as well.
“In general, tennis is most likely the safest sport in a pandemic context, and it has been great to see many people out on the courts getting the most of what the sport offers,” said Ognen Nikolovski, General Manager of CourtSense and Director of Tennis at Bogota Racquet Club. “The summer programs have been very successful as the kids and parents have been very supportive in every way, especially as they have gained confidence that kids can still be on the same court, but at the same time maintain a six-foot distance. All in all, after the reopening, and considering the circumstances that we are all in, we are happy with how everything has gone so far.”
So as the summer begins to come to a close here in New York, the local community is thrilled to have tennis back as a part of their lives. The global pandemic has affected every part of what was once considered normal, but it seems as if, albeit slowly, things are beginning to return to normal. There is still work to be done and tennis will be forced to move indoors later this year, but the tennis community has demonstrated its perseverance, and looks to be coming back stronger than ever.