By Minh Pham
Looking for a new way to lose those extra love handles after a fattening winter hibernation? If lifting weights at the gym gets old way too fast for you, you belong to the upbeat bunch who prefer a more active way to burn calories. Tennis is the perfect cushy, fun sport to pick up during the spring and summer seasons. It may not feel like exercise while you’re playing a friendly game with your roommate or practicing your serve with your best friend, but it will when you wake up the next morning!
Since the average young Bostonian isn’t living in a mansion with her own private court, grab your racquet and try the accommodations at one of these Boston-area tennis courts.
Boston Common. Despite the fluctuating conditions and limited courts, the Common still attracts a big number of players thanks to its central location. The best time to play here is early fall, when September breezes help you keep your cool during a nerve-wrecking drop shot. Even though the wait for a court might frustrate you from time to time, people-watching is a good sport, too. These courts are famous for attracting a wide range of players, from sporty grandpas and grandmas to cute 10-year-old tennis prodigies and their enthusiastic father coaches. A hitting wall also allows you to work on perfecting your groundstrokes even when you can’t find a partner. The only advice I have: Keep the ball on the court, as it can be tiring going back and forth getting the ball you “accidentally” hit outside. Details: Availability: Open to the public during park hours; Night lights: Yes; Courts: 2; Conditions: Average.
North End (605 Commercial St.). These courts offer a perfect blend of Boston’s breathtaking scenery and your tennis adrenaline. Though somewhat hidden underneath the Charlestown Bridge, the courts peacefully lie by the waterfront and offer another angled view of the TD Garden. On a nice summer night, when you’re lucky enough to catch the night lights on, playing with a buddy can actually be a refreshing activity. Wide-eyed passers-by will sometimes stop to admire that sharp cross-court shot you’ve been working on; some may even yell out compliments that make you blush. At any time of the day, these courts guarantee a sexy combination: your favorite sport and soaking in Boston’s gorgeous waterfront, plus views of a token bridge, a signature building, and a delightful body of water. Details: Availability: Open to the public 24/7; Night lights: Limited; Courts: 2; Conditions: Good.
Museum of Science (1 Charles River Dam Rd.). While most tennis courts are positioned side by side, these two are aligned back to back, and each is wrapped by a tall metal fence, giving players undivided concentration for a competitive match. There is no proper waiting area if you’re next to play, but if you’re OK with sitting next to the highway with big trucks tumbling at you, you’ll get in some hitting time. If you’re lucky, the courts will be empty when you get there, but it’s always hard to predict with public courts. Make sure you plan ahead, as these courts don't have night lights. The usual conditions are not too shabby, but it’s not uncommon for city maintenance to neglect public courts, especially during the winter. Details: Availability: Open to the public during daylight hours; Night lights: No; Courts: 2; Conditions: Average.
MIT duPont Courts and J.B. Carr Tennis Bubble (77 Mass Ave.). This enormous tennis complex is not your typical public court. All of the courts are in excellent condition thanks to the prestigious school’s constant maintenance. During certain hours, the indoor courts are available to MIT students and their guests only; otherwise, they’re available to the public for a fee, so if you’re a dedicated player who doesn’t mind paying the big bucks, you can cross “engaging in a rally under a giant bubble” off your bucket list. (If you’re short on cash but want to experience what it’s like one time, I recommend making friends with an MIT student who owns a racket.) Outdoor courts are free, but do require reservations, which can admittedly be tough to come by during spring and summer. However, just like any other competitive sport, you’ve gotta jump right ahead from the get-go. Beware of those who come here regularly! More often than not, their superb tennis skills will make you feel highly inadequate. Details: Availability: Outdoor courts require walk-up reservations three days in advance, but it’s free to play. Indoor courts are open to MIT students and their guests 2 p.m.-6 p.m. every day, for free, and non-students are welcome during the rest of the courts’ open hours; Night lights: Yes; Courts: 12 outdoor and 4 indoor; Conditions: Excellent.
Saxon Tennis Court at MIT (6 Ames St.). Located right next to the Charles near the MIT sailing pavilion, these courts offer a romantic view of Boston from the other side of the river. There are four courts available, so the wait is not usually too bad. However, the current conditions are not ideal for any competitive matches: After a long, abandoned winter, the cracks in the ground and the big holes in the nets will prevent your sterling skills from seeing their glorious days. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a fun group activity on a nice spring day, these courts will definitely do. Just watch out for the cracks; nobody wants to be injured before the warm seasons even start! Details: Availability: Open to the public during daylight hours; Night lights: No; Courts: 4; Conditions: Below average.
If you’re looking for more tennis court near where you live and work, you can always consult this list. Which local courts would you recommend?
Photos of the Boston Common courts (top), North End courts (middle), and MIT duPont outdoor courts (bottom) by Minh Pham
About Minh -- I once told my mom that there are three consistent passions in my life: advertising, bartending, and tennis. I wouldn't consider myself an expert in any of those fields, but something about each of them makes me feels very much alive. Twitter: @DatsWatMinhSaid
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