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When it comes to worldwide reach and scope, few sports hold a candle to tennis. To celebrate all that makes tennis so rich and deep, Tennis Channel kicks off "TenniScope." Authored by Tennis Channel writer Joel Drucker, these short pieces describe many of the fabulous moments and places, people and products that have added sparkle and passion to our sport.

Let's Take it Inside

by Joel Drucker

Few things in tennis are more enjoyable than the resounding echo that accompanies smacking a ball indoors. And smack is the operative verb. So sheltered are indoor courts, so devoid of the intrusive clutter some find when dealing with sun, wind and other elements, that a player's eagerness to take a hearty swing at the ball dramatically increases once indoors. It could well be hormonal. 

For the masses, this is a fairly new pleasure. One major reason so many great players came from California for so long was simply due to weather. With very few indoor courts in much of the country, the ability to play year-round gave Golden State residents a major jump. There were a few fabled spots, such as the St. Louis Armory, where the devoted were able to go indoors. But not many. 

Then came the tennis boom of the "60s and "70s, a period that prompted the creation of various indoor facilities, ranging from seasonal bubbles to more permanent fixtures. The rest of the country was now also able to enjoy tennis 365 days a year. The growth of indoor tennis was a heady time, but also one of learning - sometimes the hard way. Zealous contractors would cut corners, leaving courts too-narrowly spaced, roofs too low, lights too dim and showers that were great breeding grounds for bacteria.

But while that's still the case at some indoor centers, in most cases indoor tennis clubs are well-constructed. For a great deal of America, going indoors is a major part of their tennis life, complete with regularly-booked court times, constant activities and, as I've seen, big-hitting games that are clearly built on whacking the ball under a roof. A man I met from Michigan mostly plays tennis in the winter indoors and then, during the summer, puts his racket aside in favor of a fishing pole. And if you've ever been to Houston or Dallas in the summer, you'll see why a lot of tennis players do not have suntans. 

For Californians like myself, indoor tennis is an occasional bonus, a rare chance to play even when it's raining. Though there's hardly an indoor court to be found in Southern California, where I live in Northern California there are roughly half a dozen facilities that have indoor courts. It's a treat to be playing while it's pouring outside. And it's also a nice chance to turn the tables when a person who mostly plays indoors has to come outside and deal with the elements. 

I'll confess, though, that I prefer tennis outdoors. The indoor tennis experience can feel sterile, more like a fitness center. And I like knowing that my opponent can be vexed by the sun and the wind. Then again, over the course of my scarcely-memorable Southern California junior tennis career, the best results I ever had came at two events held at an indoor tennis club. Go figure.


Joel Drucker has been part of Tennis Channel since the network first hit the airwaves in 2003, most notably as co-producer and writer of "Center Court," as well as working for Tennis Channel at many tournaments as an analyst and writer and since 2006 authoring this website's "Roving Player" column. 

Drucker is one of the world's preeminent tennis historians, having authored dozens of articles on every generation of the game's leading players - from past stars Don Budge and Jack Kramer to contemporary greats Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer. Along with Tennis Channel colleagues Bud Collins and Steve Flink, Drucker is one of three American writers on the International Tennis Hall of Fame Enshrinee Committee - the group that each year builds the ballot for the worldwide panel of voters. Drucker's first book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, is considered by Sports Illustrated to be one of five "must-read" tennis books.

Read all the Tenniscope columns:

Happy Birthday, Ken Rosewall | Davis Cup: How it all started | Mixing It Up In Mixed Doubles | Aussies Set The Tennis Code | The Royal Reign of Margaret Court | Reflections on Michael Chang | Let's Take it Inside | Warm-Up Suits | Death of a Player | A Tale of Two Backhands | Court Management | Movie Review | Racquet Racket | Sampras: Book Review

Comments

  1. Joel Drucker (3/10/2008 6:07:08 PM) 

    The author of the prior note and the author of the article are not related.

  2. Lloyd S. Drucker (3/2/2008 7:31:50 PM) 

    Yes, soon after it seemed that everyone was playing tennis. The demise of wood made the game easier for the average player and younger kids. The US and Austrailian opens changed to hardcourt painted with new hi tech materials soon emulated on your neighborhood asphalt. Bjorn Borg ruled so the change began to two handed backhand and topspin forehand from continental strokes more suited to grass. The large demand for teaching pros eventually led to certification and more kids were put into tennis lessons. Even those who could not afford private instruction, previously limited to tennis books, eventually had access to VHS tapes, then DVD's of today. Countries other than Austraila and the USA became competitive and the level of college tennis rose. Today tennis is virtually universal and with global media as the Tennis Channel, truely a lifetime game for all.



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