Tapping into one's inner Agassi is easier than ever, from pay-to-play complexes to public parks 

With spring, it's time to develop that stellar tennis game you've always had  inside you. No doubt you've already dug the secondhand racket out of the closet. But where to play?

Check out the metro's pay-to-play complexes and public parks. The latter have the benefit of being free, but space can be limited, especially if one guy practices his serve for hours at a time. The alternative is paying for time at a tennis center.

"Because of the fees, we are able to open our clubhouse, where there are restrooms and concessions," said David Minihan, director of tennis at the 12- court Westwood Tennis Center, 2420 Westport in Norman. "People can come to the lounge area to cool down after a long match, we can offer programs for players from 3 years old and up, and our courts are all in great shape."

Steve Henry, the director of tennis at OKC Tennis Center, 3400 N. Portland, and Earlywine Tennis Center, 3101 S.W. 119th, said the sport is surging in popularity due to nationwide education programs and wider visibility via tennis superstars. He said efforts to capture new players early and retain them through amateur leagues have paid off with six straight years of growth.

"It is a great lifelong sport where you can have fun and get a great workout," Henry said. "There are few sports out there where you can play the exact same game you see on television, and you can play it the rest of your life. You're not going to play football when you are 50 or basketball at 60."

Tennis centers have pros and group lessons available to teach the basics, but if you broke your budget by buying a can of balls, public parks are an option. Some free courts can be dicey, but quality ones are out there. For example, the City of Edmond has courts at three public parks.

"The three city courts are very well-maintained," said Earl London, superintendent of park operations for Edmond Parks and Recreation. "The nets are kept at regulation height."

Henry said finding a partner can be a challenge, but participating in tournaments will yield tennis buddies.

 "If you want to play a game of basketball, you need five, seven or eight guys," Henry said, "but with tennis, all you need is one other person, and you have a match."

photo Steve Henry at OKC Tennis Center photo/Mark Hancock

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