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Braving the elements: Platform tennis, anyone?
The Journal News

Nyack, NY
By Jane McManus
Three outdoor heat lamps as large as tiki torches were the only concession to the weather. With the Hudson River visible through skeletal trees, platform tennis players gathered at the Nyack Field Club to drink red wine on a Saturday afternoon and watch an exhibition match. Full Story printed from 02-21-07 Journal News

By Jane McManus
The Journal News
(reprinted from http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007702210337

This sport might have started in Scarsdale, but it crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge long ago.

When Meryl Brown of New City joined the club, she quickly gave in to the peer pressure and started to play.

"Everyone I met said, 'You have to try this sport,' " Brown said.

Platform or paddle tennis is an outdoor sport that looks as though it should be played in the summer. But the courts in Nyack and many other places have heaters beneath them to melt ice and assist in snow removal.

So when oversized tennis courts are covered with white, platform courts are ready to go.

"This is a winter sport - we play in the elements," player Kim Raso Stewart said.

The court itself is a deck 60 feet by 30 feet, surrounded by a 12-foot wire fence. The rules are much the same except only one serve is allowed, lets are played, and the ball is played off the screen. In 1931, Fox Meadow Tennis Club in Scarsdale became the first to build a platform tennis court.

Gerri Viant is the club pro at Nyack Field Club, and she organized the four national-level players on hand to show how the game is played at a high level. Viant, herself a member of the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame and a longtime Nyack resident, was part of nine national-championship women's doubles teams.

She asked Mike Gillespie, with whom Viant won a national mixed title, and Bronxville Field Club pro Rodrigo Schtscherbyna to be part of the two doubles teams. They were on opposite sides of the net and showed that this game is very different from its big cousin.

"I bring a lot from tennis even though it's a different mentality," Schtscherbyna said. "In tennis, you have to win the point, but not so in paddle."

In fact, that kind of smash-a-winner play is negated by the fact that in paddle tennis, balls can be played off the fence around the court. The more pace, the better the ball rebounds off the wire.

"Here, the screens negate the speed," Viant said. "A B-level player who understands the game can do well."

The sport is becoming so popular in the area that there are weeklong waiting lists for the four courts at the club. Sue Smith of Upper Nyack, a real-estate investor who plays on the women's A team, wryly suggested double-decker courts to alleviate the wait.

Clearly, Smith knows the value of court space, as do many who came out to appreciate the exhibition match.

"I play indoor tennis, and it's so stuffy and disgusting," April Solomon of West Nyack said.

Like Solomon, many of the players just like being outside in the winter. There are legendary stories about players scraping ice off to play in below-zero temperatures at midnight.

"There's a little bit of a pioneer feeling about it," Viant said. "We're out here in the middle of the winter."

Reach Jane McManus at jmcmanus@lohud.com.


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