Westchester is a tennis lover’s paradise. Whether you’re a hacker who wants to throw on a sweatshirt and bash the ball around, a junior with Grand Slam dreams, or a mixed-doubles tandem who join teams hoping to advance to national playoffs (or simply for the post-match beer and wine), Westchester has everything you need.
Want proof? The United States Tennis Association is enthusiastically headquartered here, in White Plains. “USTA Leagues have really grown and prospered in Westchester, and we’re thrilled,” reports Jenny Schnitzer, executive director and CEO of USTA Eastern.
She has every right to be thrilled. Westchester County has the leagues, venues, teachers, surfaces, and merch to make tennis your lifelong athletic companion — and it’s never too early, or too late, to get started.
Here’s where to make the most of it in your own backyard — literally or figuratively.
77 Kensico Dr, Mount Kisco
We try to work as one big team, understanding that our common goal is changing everybody’s life for the better through tennis,” says Saw Mill Club tennis director Zuka Mukhuradze. A lofty aim, but the staff here consistently works hard to instill solid technique and a love of the game in all players. Adults can participate in a variety of clinics and compete in a number of different leagues, both in-house and interclub. Sessions are scheduled during convenient day and evening timeslots. For juniors, Mukhuradze started the Edge program, catering to those with serious tennis ambitions. The Edge’s success recently spawned the more intensive Edge Elite, a select unit from within the Edge program, that provides additional instruction and tournament play, off-court fitness training, and even a sports psychologist. “The mental part of this game is monumental,” Mukhuradze explains. “For these young competitors, it can be stressful. We want to provide them with all the support they need, to have a healthy, positive effect on each child’s development.” This pretty, membership-required fitness facility boasts 13 hard courts, indoor and outdoor pools, exercise classes, and a restaurant. “It really is amazing here,” says Mukhuradze. “It’s a home-away-from-home for all of us.”
• Advantage, Saw Mill: on-site childcare, physical therapy and massage, summer poolside bar
493 Sprain Rd, Yonkers
Yonkers Tennis Center players win a lot of tennis matches. Championship banners line the walkway leading up to the club’s front door. But while these victories speak to the success of YTC programs, they “are not what we do this for,” insists tennis director Tendai Kuwaza. “What’s more important,” he says, “is watching players walk off the court after a match and not knowing if they’ve won or lost, because they had such a good time.” Don’t think for a minute, though, that he doesn’t take the game seriously. A former Division 1 college player, Kuwaza has invented a refined approach to teaching called D.A.T., or Development Appropriate Tennis. This holistic philosophy, used with adults and juniors, incorporates fitness, sportsmanship, and technical prowess with an emphasis on deliberate contact of the ball. The end result: players with extremely solid skillsets and great attitudes, he says. The facility has six indoor hard courts and programs to suit all levels. YTC also emphasizes community outreach. As part of its Coach Pat Project (the late Pat Rogers was a beloved coach here), YTC pros teach tennis at schools throughout Yonkers, working with a grant from the USTA.
• Advantage, YTC: no membership required, social mixers on Fridays, philanthropic events, such as Tennis Serving Vets
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3 South Rd, Harrison
Unassuming from the outside, Rye Racquet Club is a powerhouse on the local interclub tennis circuit and beyond. “We’ve been very successful,” says the director of tennis and operations, Carolyn Cruz, producing many adult USTA teams over the years that have advanced deep into the playoffs, often reaching the national finals. Cruz attributes this success to the teaching methods of club owner Kit Byron. A professional coach, Byron applies what he’s learned at the top of the game to his lessons and clinics here in Westchester. “He can be tough,” says Cruz with a laugh. “He trains his adult students like they are college athletes,” but Cruz says that most Rye Racquet players wouldn’t have it any other way. Those not seeking trophies (yet) are welcome, too, as the club organizes social events and just-for-fun tennis classes. The pros at Rye Racquet, though steeped in the Byron method, are able to adapt to every level of play, Cruz adds. The large junior program is primarily recreational, with a smaller group partaking in USTA tournaments, playing high school tennis, and advancing to college teams.
• Advantage, Rye Racquet: nine courts (hard and Har-Tru), great pro shop, nursery, no membership requirement
546 Bedford Rd, Armonk
ATC tennis director Doug Sherman received Outstanding Scholar Athlete awards when he played at James Madison University, and after listening to him explain his teaching philosophy, that makes sense. His thoughtful, caring approach is what we all seek in a tennis mentor. “I remember when coaches really lifted me up and helped me achieve more than I thought I was capable of,” Sherman says. “I want to translate those moments for my students and to avoid negativity.” (Yes, please!) His supportive attitude is shared by attentive staff here, creating a “homey club, with a real family atmosphere,” Sherman adds. It’s no wonder then, that Armonk Tennis Club attracts many loyal patrons. “We have players from age 4 to 94,” says Sherman. “We truly offer something for everyone. And if someone’s goal is just to have fun and maybe improve their backhand, that’s no less important than someone who is training to go to nationals.”
• Advantage, ATC: 14 courts (12 Har-Tru, two red clay), with hard-court play available at nearby sister facility (Armonk Indoor); summer-only memberships with use of outdoor pool
30 Snyders Hill Rd, Mount Kisco
Tucked away in the woods off I-684 near Mount Kisco (there have been bear sightings!), Chestnut Ridge Racquet Club is a busy hub for tennis aficionados in Northern Westchester. The popular facility offers great instruction, 10 well-maintained Har-Tru courts (six indoor year-round), a small pro shop, and a simple locker room. “We’re not a country club; we’re a down-to-earth tennis club. People feel welcome here. We don’t need all the bells and whistles, just fantastic courts, fantastic tennis,” says new tennis director Brad Breakstone. He recently took over the reins from longtime director Bob Schewior, maintaining the club’s dedication to supporting all players’ individual goals. Breakstone says he adopts a practical approach to teaching tennis, meaning that “tactics dictate technique.” For example, topspin is taught specifically as “a tool to hit deep, but in, to push opponents back,” Breakstone explains. “This is a game that you want to win; they don’t hand out awards for the prettiest forehand,” Breakstone adds with a laugh. Eager students of all ages apparently want to test out their strokes and strategies: More than 30 USTA teams played out of Chestnut Ridge last year and won — a lot.
• Advantage, Chestnut Ridge: periodic tennis/karaoke events (singing while playing not required), pro shop with great end-of-season sales.
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Delfino Park, 110 Lake St, White Plains
TIA in White Plains has an exciting energy, and that’s no accident, says founder Cesar Andrade, who opened the eight-court facility in 2015. Working with his brother Juan, Andrade channeled his own considerable experience (training at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, playing first singles in college and years in the tennis industry) into modernizing the tennis-school concept. The result: a busy academy with a stylish vibe, including dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows for up-close viewing of on-court action. “I wanted that immediacy,” says Andrade. “I wanted the tennis to be front and center.” Living up to its name, TIA’s innovations include a uniquely well-trained staff. “We have our own standard for certifying our coaches, all of whom are NCAA players, former pros, or both,” says Andrade, “so students get consistent teaching.” TIA’s results-oriented juniors’ program also offers a college recruitment advisor. Recent success stories include grads playing for Brown and Tulane. The academy approach also is applied to adult teams and clinics, Andrade adds, noting that even the initially skeptical are soon all in. “Players see how everyone is so engaged: They’re running, working hard; it’s contagious; you fall in love with it a little bit,” he explains.
• Advantage, TIA: central White Plains location, coaches who regularly attend students’ matches, providing support and post-match analysis
100 River St, Hastings-on-Hudson
If you double fault on match point while serving at the Tennis Club of Hastings, just blame it on the view. The tennis courts here are right on the Hudson River — a gorgeous setting that could distract even Serena Williams. Of course, proximity to the Hudson wasn’t always an asset, as the club took a beating during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Happily, the six Har-Tru courts have since been replaced. More recently, new owners have taken control, prioritizing customer service, according to tennis director Matt Llewellyn, whose gracious courtside manner and serious tennis pedigree make him the perfect representative of the club’s overhaul. “I really care about what I do, about making sure each player gets individual attention,” says Llewellyn. An alum of the famed IMG (Bollettieri) Academy in Florida, Llewellyn says his tennis IQ comes from “training with some of the world’s best coaches.” Hitting with Maria Sharapova probably didn’t hurt, either. But just as rewarding, says Llewellyn, is helping local students at every stage of life improve their game. To re-energize the juniors’ program, Llewellyn is looking to provide “all the development needed” for emerging players.
• Advantage, Tennis Club of Hastings: Forty North Kitchen & Bar on-premises, weekly drop-in clinics
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660 White Plains Rd, Eastchester
Young tennis aces in Westchester can thank John McEnroe not only for reinventing the tennis academy but for establishing one in Eastchester at Sportime Lake Isle. “John’s vision was to create a place where the best kids in the eastern section could prepare to compete at the highest level without having to be shipped off to Florida or somewhere else,” explains Fritz Buehning, director of the Sportime Lake Isle JMTA. (Inside dirt: Buehning lost the US Open doubles final in 1983 to John McEnroe’s team… guess no hard feelings!) Seems to be working, because “every year, we have nationally ranked kids, as high as top 50 in the country,” Buehning says. “Students also go on to play in college [Amherst, University of Chicago, Tufts, for example], many on scholarships.” The adult teams are no strangers to success either. Both Sportime Lake Isle, and its lovely sister club, Sportime Harbor Island in Mamaroneck, have excellent programs for men and women looking to maximize their potential. “We train adults like juniors,” says Sportime GM Carlos Campo. “We have fun, but we encourage competition.”
• Advantage, Sportime: beautiful location at Lake Isle Country Club with restaurant, golf course, and five pools