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Where to Play: Public Courts
Despite urban congestion and astronomical land values, Europe's largest metropolis harbors a surprising number of public and private tennis centers. The concierge at a good London hotel can very likely get you into one of the city's many members-only racquet clubs, but more affordable court time is available to all comers in the following public parks. To locate other public courts in central and suburban London, use the free online search tool at www.londontennis.co.uk/findcourt.php.
 The Regent's Park Tennis Centre 
This club-like facility at the southwest corner of Regent's Park features a dozen hard courts (four of them lighted), a changing area with showers, a cafe and retail shop. The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer). Nonmembers pay £7 per hour during off-peak weekday hours, or £9 during peak weekend and evening hours, with a £5 floodlight surcharge after dark. Reservations are possible a day in advance, or up to one week in advance for members. Adult membership cards cost £55, with prorated reductions if you join partway through the May-to-April membership period.
Information: Official Site, +44-20-7486-4216
 Hyde Park 
Six well-maintained hard courts with a cafe and a small changing pavilion are available on the south side of Hyde Park near the Royal Albert Hall, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer). The hourly rate for nonmembers is £11.50 during off-peak weekday hours, or £12.50 during peak weekend and evening hours, plus a £5.50 floodlight fee whenever lights are in use. Reservations are possible two days in advance, or up to one week in advance for members. Full adult membership costs £110 per year, or £60 for a midweek-only card, with prorated reductions if you join partway through the April-to-March membership period.
Information: Official Site, +44-20-7262-3474.
 Wimbledon Park 
The 10 asphalt courts and 10 synthetic turf courts at this suburban municipal park are as close as most of us will ever get to playing on the hallowed grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis Club. The Wimbledon Championships take place just a few hundred yards to the west beyond the Wimbledon Park Golf Club, and in 2003, the AELTC subsidized much-needed resurfacing and other improvements to the public courts. The cost is £5 per hour on weekdays, £6 per hour evenings and weekends, with discounted rates for members, seniors and anyone under age 18. Advance bookings are possible if you purchase an annual membership for £33.50. Half of the courts have floodlights and are open daily from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; unlighted courts close at dusk.
Information: Official Site, +44-20-8879-0611
 Greenwich Park Tennis Centre 
Six hard courts at this pretty riverside park in southeastern London lie right on the prime meridian near the original site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, presenting a unique opportunity to play tennis at precisely zero degrees longitude. The facility is managed by Playzennis, an open tennis club that charges ₤5 per hour off-peak, or ₤7 after 6 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends. The courts are generally open daily from dawn to dusk, though it’s best to phone ahead to confirm court availability. Telephone reservations are possible two days in advance, or up to a week in advance if you pay ₤45 for an annual membership.
Information: Official Site, +44-20-8293-0276
 Paddington Recreation Centre 
Nine asphalt courts and six floodlit synthetic courts are available at this sports complex about a mile west of Regent’s Park in northwest London. The facility is open daily from 8 a.m. to dusk (until 9 p.m. from April through September), with an hourly fee of ₤6.35 for tarmac courts, or ₤10.05 for synthetic courts. Membership (₤42.30 for nonresident adults) entitles card-holders to reduced hourly fees and court reservations up to two weeks in advance.
Information: Official Site, +44-20-7641-3642
 Battersea Park Millennium Arena 
This expansive multi-sport complex on the south bank of the Thames opposite the Chelsea Embankment has six synthetic turf courts and 13 hard courts that are open year-round from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekends. Court time costs ₤6.90 per hour weekdays after 6 p.m. and all day on weekends, ₤5 per hour at all other times. Reservations may be made up to seven days in advance if you pay ₤27 for an annual membership.
Information: Official Site, +44-20-8871-7542

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