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Game, set, and cabbage patch: Tiny tennis club opens in Gowanus

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Finally, a private, indoor, miniature tennis club for kids!

Court 16 opened in Gowanus on Monday, offering pint-sized tennis courts, lighter rackets, and softer balls for the tennis stars of tomorrow to get a head start on the 2029 U.S. Open. The downsized digs help kids learn the fundamentals without having to wield heavy gear or strain trying to lift the ball over regulation nets, according to a founder.

“We wanted the kids to feel like the courts are designed for them, not just that they’re playing on a court built for adults,” said Court 16 executive Anthony Evrard.

The club, where an annual membership runs $500, is carefully served up for the discerning junior player, he said.

“Kids in New York are so much more aware, and so we really have to craft it for them to be legitimate,” Evrard said.

The pros at Court 16 spent the summer courting neighborhood parents of potential 3–11-year-old players as they built out the foam-lined-walls and courts in a former warehouse at 526 Baltic St. between Nevins Street and Third Avenue, Evrard said. Full-size adult tennis courts are 72 feet long, 12 feet longer than the distance between a pitcher’s mound and home plate. The courts at Court 16 are half that size, 36 feet from end to end, although they didn’t seem so small when Evrard had this reporter chasing the ball all over the place during a brief demonstration on Tuesday. The courts can be expanded to 60 feet for the older kids.

The baselines aren’t the only things that are scaled down. The tiny tennis facility also includes close-to-the-ground bathroom fixtures and water fountains, staggered in height to serve the full spectrum of ages.

The diminutive diversion is no racket, either. The United States Tennis Association officially sanctioned kids tennis in 2011 and small courts exist in California, Colorado, and Louisiana. But the development is still catching on in the U.S., whereas it has been an overhead smash in Europe for more than a decade, according to Evrard, who hails from Belgium. The petite courts and less-bouncy balls make it a breeze to school kids in the basics, he said.

“It’s much easier to teach the right fundamentals on a smaller court,” he said.

Evrard knows what he’s talking about, if his tennis game is any indication. His parents lobbed him into the sport when he was 3, and as a teenager he volleyed his way into junior circuits that took him to such far-flung locations as Florida, where he said he fell in love with the United States. He studied business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he said he was the captain of his team junior and senior year. A Manhattanite, he has lived in New York since 2005, and he said he began flirting with the idea of opening a junior tennis club several years ago.

Court 16 employs eight people, including Evrard, four coaches, and three administrators, Evrard said. He declined to say how many youngsters have signed up so far.

Court 16 [526 Baltic St. between Nevins Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus, (718) 875–5550, www.court16.com]. Monday–Friday, 9 am–8 pm. Saturday, 8 am–8 pm. Sunday, 8am–7 pm. $500 annually.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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