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USTA issues guidelines for players and tennis facilities for when play is allowed

A general view of Louis Armstrong Stadium during

A general view of Louis Armstrong Stadium during the 2019 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Aug. 26, 2019. Credit: Getty Images for USTA/Mike Stobe

The United States Tennis Association on Wednesday issued a comprehensive series of guidelines for players and tennis facility operators in areas of the country where tennis is allowed to be played or will be.

But the reopening of tennis facilities, private clubs, large publicly accessible venues and municipal courts hasn't happened in New York State and there is no indication when that might happen while the state is operating under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “pause order” until May 15.

"I don’t think it is up to us to reopen at this time,” said Claude Okin, president and CEO of the Sportime Clubs, which is the largest tennis operator on Long Island with eight facilities. “If it were, we believe we could do so in a manner that would be safe, wholesome and careful. But I don’t think it’s up to us yet.”

Last Friday private golf clubs and courses privately owned and publicly accessible were allowed to reopen under a series of strict mandates, as were some marinas and boating facilities. But under New York State directives, tennis falls into a group with gyms and other athletic facilities that have been designated nonessential businesses and must close.

"I talked to certain other owners and I see almost everything that’s sent out by other clubs” Okin said. “I’m not aware of any private or public tennis clubs that are open right now in New York. And I’m not aware of any municipal facilities that are open.”

When the state finally does allow tennis facilities to be open, Okin says Sportime will be ready. Sportime operates clubs in Amagansett, Quogue, Kings Park, two Bethpage facilities, Syosset, Roslyn and Lynbrook.

"We’ve been planning for it sort of nonstop since we closed on March 16,” Okin said. “We’ve installed plexiglass, taking away water fountains and installing bottle fillers, coming up with sanitization protocols, changing our curriculums so we can have young players on court without having them get close to each other.

"We are figuring out how we are going to do this, try to keep people healthy and happy without letting them getting the virus. But I don’t think it’s up to us yet.”

Among the many sanitary precautions the USTA outlined was how to play with two sets of balls so that each player only handles those with their number on it. Players are strongly urged to clean their equipment right after playing.  

The USTA also suggested not playing doubles, though that is extremely popular among recreational players and the USTA asked that when playing doubles players are mindful of social distancing. A complete rundown of recommendations for players and operators can be found on USTA.com.

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