Serve This! Tennis Enthusiasts Have Their Stage
For much of the Harvard community the answer would be a resounding yes. The "sport for a lifetime" is one of the most popular recreational sports at Harvard, and certainly not without reason.
"Tennis is such a unique sport," junior Josh Bloom said, taking a break from hitting at the Quad tennis courts. "There's so much involved mentally and physically."
Of course, few recreational players at Harvard can claim to meet all the mental and physical demands of tennis, but the sport tolerates everyone's participation.
Therein lies the greatest beauty of tennis--its tolerance. All players, from the most talented pros to the weekend hackers, can call themselves tennis players and the sport will accept them.
Recreational tennis takes on many forms at Harvard. For many the tennis courts across the river and at the QRAC are the arena of intra-room-mate rivalries. While the shots may not bring forth images of a McEnroeLendl battle to a casual observer, the intensity is very real.
"There's definitely a lot of ego involved," Bloom said, with a nod of agreement from roommate and hitting partner Geoff Criqui.
"We may disagree on calls once in a while," Criqui said. "But I don't think we ever really yell at each other."
Other use their court-time for less competitive purposes, choosing instead to unwind after a tough day by admiring the physical beauty of the game.
"It's nice to talk while you're hitting," junior Scott Kerr said after an hour on-court with Kendall Huffhines '94.
"The feeling you get when you hit a perfect forehand is a great way to get out tension," Huffhines said.
Unfortunately, for most Harvard students the chance to experience the instantaneous union of fluorescent felt and synthetic string comes far too infrequently.
"We don't get to play as much as we'd like to," Bloom and Criqui said.
Criqui, who hails from San Diego, where the tennis gods are more than generous with favorable weather, used to play year-round before he arrived at Harvard.
But whereas Harvard can provide its students with immense amounts of resources, a core curriculum unmatched in the Ivy League and professors that other schools cover, it often fails to provide enough fair-weather days for students to experience the joys of tennis.
On those cherished days when the sun shines and the ground is dry, students can hope to find some court time at one of the school's outdoor hard courts.
At the Berren Tennis Center, hidden behind a wall of trees near the outdoor track, eight courts are available for undergraduate use on a walk-on basis. Unfortunately, the Beren Tennis Center is also the home of the men's and women's tennis squads who have first priority to the courts.
There are only two sure ways around this handicap: play on a Sunday, or memorize the variable practice schedules of the two teams.
Those fortunate enough to live in the Quad can benefit from, among various amenities, the use of the QRAC's three outdoor courts.
Two of these courts are located on the roof of the athletic center, and the surfaces are less than ideal.
The third court is located across the parking lot and caters to those who don't mind playing with scorns and leaves underfoot.
Students may reserve these courts in person or by phone for one-hour slots.
"If you want courts, you should reserve them," QRAC desk attendant Edna Powers advised. "If you've reserved courts, you can ask people who don't have courts to leave."
There is another court in this complex, but it belongs to the Harvard Center for Astrophysics and, though open to the public, cannot be reserved.
When the weather does turn to the cold, wet norm of the Harvard school year, tennis die-hards can find refuge on the school's eight indoor courts.
Three of these courts, located at the Palmer Dixon Tennis Center, are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends. As with the Beren outdoor courts, these courts are reserved for the varsity tennis teams, and scheduling around their practice times is the only way to get a court.
Some of these courts are also contracted out in the evenings, at rates few students should even consider paying.
The Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis Center provides another alternative for indoor tennis. This sports complex offers three doubles courts and two singles courts with Decoturf II surfaces.
The ITT is open is open for tennis from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays (until 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays) and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.
Here too, however, use of the indoor facility by varsity and junior varsity teams of all sports (track, baseball, football) takes precedence over recreational tennis, and calling ahead to check the availability of courts is advised.
Two courts at the ITT are left open for walk-one while the other three can be reserved for ten dollars per singles court, per hour.
For Quadlings, though, the walk across the river frustrates many tennis dreams. No courts are available in the Radcliffe part of town.
"Going across the river is too much of a hassle," Criqui said.
"Last year we took up squash, though," Bloom added. "Those courts are always available at the QRAC in the winter."
True, but can a sport named after a vegetable really take the place of tennis? To most serve-and-volley enthusiasts, probably not.