Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Tennis in Atlanta

ALTA’s winter mixed doubles seasons are underway – for the first time, I’m playing both – and while most in the North are unable to play tennis outdoors from November through February those of us here in Atlanta are blessed with year-round opportunities to play outside.

Of course it is different.  Instead of the typical play of warm weather conditions, featuring nice bouncy yellow balls hit with topspin off flexible strings, it’s often more akin to hitting rocks with paddles, especially on those days when the temperature barely exceeds thirty-two degrees.  Add to that the occasional bone-chilling wind gust that blows lobs long (or wide), slows well-hit and accelerates poorly hit shots, and makes hitting one’s high service toss an adventure, and you’ve got a series of challenges that those who play exclusively indoors during the winter never have to face.  Plus, there are those teammates and opponents who haven’t picked up a racquet since October, which makes the earliest match results of the season so unpredictable and hence the early league standings deceiving.

Then there are the tennis courts.  To begin the season, one may have to clear leaves and other autumn droppings off the court surfaces (and out of the gates).  Although winter precipitation (snow, freezing rain, or sleet) is uncommon in Atlanta, we’ve had two consecutive winter seasons during which it’s been a major factor, and I’m not talking about rain and the usual hassle of makeup matches, which are usually played at night during the week when it’s even colder and windier.  No, we’ve had ice on our courts which persists even after all the rest of the (e.g.) snow has dissipated because our windscreens keep the sun from melting it behind the baselines on one side.  Since the surface of a tennis court is really just 3-layers of acrylic paint, it’s especially challenging to remove the ice without damaging the underlying court.  A leaf blower (and possibly a nearby power outlet) is needed and is best utilized in conjunction with flat-bladed shovels used as horizontally and ever so gently as possible to painstakingly remove the ice.  Of course, if the sun is out, taking down the windscreens might also help provided you have plenty of fasteners, and the energy, to put them back up when you’re done clearing the ice.  Lastly, if you have cushioned (e.g. Deco Turf) courts, an initially dry court can get wetter as you play on it; your weight on the painted layers helps to draw the moisture trapped in the spongy layer below to the surface.

However, if I had to choose between not playing during the winter (or having to pay to play on an indoor court) vs. dealing with the aforementioned challenging conditions, I’d still choose the latter every time!

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