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A Year in the Life of a Pandemic Tennis Bum

By Mitchell Polstein Jr.


Tennis star Novak Djokovic caused an uproar by appearing at the Australian Open last week without a mask

In 2020, it was hitting real balls over imaginary nets in unlocked playgrounds and the odd public space. Things were tough for tennis players. Indoor and outdoor courts were closed. We did the best we could. Our motto: Play Free or Die Trying.


Camaraderie was restored in early summer with the reopening of outdoor public courts, That included Covid-19 restrictions that we all came to know and love/hate. Fortunately, the one suggestion about not handling another player’s balls didn’t last long. Clubhouses and locker rooms were closed, so tennis gypsy camps sprung up on lawns and benches.


There was not much else to do, so I spent every day possible at the Central Park Tennis Courts playing, kibitzing, and schmoozing. Note: kibitzing to me is commenting on other people’s games, either in a good-natured or nasty manner. Schmoozing is about everything else.


This winter, the outdoor hard courts are open, though the snows of Kilimanjaro kept them closed until recently. Playing tennis has kept us all saner than we would be otherwise. Not a high bar—or net, to be sure, but one I will continue to jump over to celebrate victory over Covid.











Mitch Polstein Jr., a native Manhattanite, was the men’s tennis coach at Hunter College in New York City.

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