Flushing Meadows … Rolling Ghettos and Tennis In Between

Jeff and I enjoy watching tennis as much as playing tennis. So we look forward to watching the four Grand Slams when they air – either on network TV or streaming from ESPN. This year the streaming quality from ESPN was sketchy, but we still managed to watch enough tennis to get our fill. It is our ultimate dream to attend the US Open in person one day – my sister has done so at least three times for free – thanks to a connection she has, or had. Ironic, considering she doesn’t play tennis and really has no interest in the game other than to rub shoulders with celebrities.

Reflections on Flushing MeadowsThe 2012 US Open

The closest I have ever gotten to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was when I flew out of LaGuardia Airport in late August 2010 and got a spectacular birds-eye view of the entire complex. My daughter and I had been staying at a hotel where some of the qualifiers were staying and we spotted many others in Midtown – very cool, indeed.

I was rooting for Andy Murray to win his first Grand Slam – the guy tries so hard and always seems to be the runner-up … with the exception of this summer’s Olympics. I was very happy to see him beat Novak Djokovic in what turned out to be a mind-blowing, exhausting 5-set match. It was very windy, but not as bad as it was during Murray’s match against Tomas Berdych – that was downright insane.

So great to see best friends and compatriots Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci win the doubles championship after having to play each other in the quarterfinals. Errani beat Vinci in their singles match, but alas, was up against the invincible Serena Williams in the semifinals … giving it her feisty best, losing 6-1, 6-2. A valiant effort for the 5’5″ Italian against the 5’9″ formidable powerhouse that is Serena, who boasts more impressive guns and a killer serve that rivals or exceeds most males players.

While Andy Roddick has never been my favorite player, his retirement at the US Open was certainly bittersweet. He gave it his all and got to the 4th round where he fell to Juan Martin del Potro in a gallant effort. According to Billie Jean King, Andy is just a regular Joe of a guy – I can definitely see this, although all regular Joes should play as well as he did in his career – or have wives that look like Brooklyn Decker. I will miss the incessant tugs he gave his shirt – whenever I do this on the court I say I am doing The Roddick … and when I get a wedgie that needs unwedging I am doing The Nadal.

I have to tell you, playing on the “tennis” courts in Rolling Meadows – a.k.a. Ghettos, is a far cry from Flushing Meadows. While this city has a very good Public Works Department, the park district leaves something to be desired, with the exception of its stellar skating rinks. They actually list all of their lovely tennis facilities on their website. Two of the tennis courts – at Waverly Park and Countryside Park look worse than courts in any war-torn country or inner-city neighborhood and appear to have not been maintained in many years.

I actually discovered this week that the courts at Countryside Park are closed and being bulldozed – couldn’t reach a live human being when I called the RMPD to see if it is being rebuilt. This place was nearly as bad as the courts at Waverly Park – honestly, I don’t understand how the RMPD can list these facilities on its website and in the catalog. On the bright side, the nuanced eroded colors at Waverly rival any urban decay and are worthy of incorporating into one of my site specific mixed media pieces! The courts at Plum Grove Park (once a private club) which we played at a few years ago have fallen on hard times – the surface is degraded, scattered with debris on the perimeter, and several nets are missing or torn. When these courts were playable, the bone of contention for us was a skateboard park located and abutting the south side – the noise was just too much.

That leaves the tennis courts at Florey Park, which surprisingly were resurfaced fairly recently and are quite decent. As is so often the case in this area, it seems like the tennis courts were an afterthought. This court has an enormous water tower just to the south, a basketball court to the east, and a playground to the west. If we couldn’t play anywhere else, this would be an acceptable choice. Somebody thought they were being very funny and vandalized both of the tennis rule signs.

There is another court at South Park that actually belongs to the Salt Creek Rural Park District, but resides within Rolling Meadows – this court  is marginally playable. The surface is a quite worn, there is a lot of traffic on Euclid to the north, a basketball court right along one end, a playground, and a picnic area with barbeques, so needless to say, potential for many distractions.

Somewhere between the glorious courts of Flushing Meadows and Rolling Ghettos metaphorically lie the very nice courts of the Arlington Heights Park District. In one our earliest blogs, we “sang the laurels” of public tennis courts, including those we frequent in Arlington Heights. Yes, we have encountered really rude parents that allow their tikes to ride their bikes and play hide and seek on the court while we are playing – at the court that is not fenced. At this same park, a mother and young son decided to play right alongside us even though there is just one court – what’s up with that? We have also encountered people playing softball on tennis courts, videotaping each other while hitting balls as hard as they could, and various other odd behavior. Alas, unless we hit the lottery and can afford to play on private courts or move to a tennis friendly city, we will have to grin and bear it – there are plenty of worse things!


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