As the weather gets warmer, outdoor tennis makes its way back to Long Island. From the schools, to the parks, to the clubs, nothing can make you feel more like a beginner than hitting that first ball outside in a swirling wind after playing indoors all winter. Whereas the USTA Adult Leagues will mainly continue their indoor play, a well-established “niche” of outdoor leagues will begin. This independent circuit made up of hundreds of players who play at country clubs, tennis clubs and parks all over Long Island and they have written rules, grievance procedures and presidents. They are as organized as the USTA, have trophies and dinners for the winners and the level of play is just as competitive. Whereas many of these rosters may have players who overlap with USTA leagues, for many of these players, it will be their only competitive tennis of the summer.
Better known as the “North Shore Leagues” because many of the clubs are located on the North Shore of Long Island or the “Country Club Leagues” because many of the matches are played at private clubs, these independent leagues, including a Senior League, are split up by the days of the week. There is a Tuesday night league, Wednesday night league and a Thursday night league. Some nights have more than one league. Starting the first or second week in May, matches will begin and run each week on the specified day of the week until the end of August when a winner will be crowned. League matches start between 5:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. and are made up of five Har-Tru doubles courts. There is no singles or hard court play. The only difference between the leagues are the clubs who participate, age requirements, scoring formats and the level of play. The most competitive of the leagues are the Tuesday and Wednesday Night Leagues.
The Tuesday Night League or North Shore Men’s Tennis League (NSMTL) has 10 teams with rosters sizes of up to 30 players per team. The league is made up of three country clubs (Inwood, Engineers and Old Westbury), two tennis and pool clubs (Shelter Rock with two teams and Piquet Lane), one Park (Great Neck Park) and three traveling teams (Country Estates, South Shore and Woodbury). The NSMTL has a nine-match schedule with an eight-team playoff structure.
Started in the mid-1980s, the Tuesday Night League has become a staple of summer tennis on the Island. Steve Abbondondelo, who has been part of the league since its inception and president of the league since 1990, feels that the league, “Showcases high quality levels of players without taking away the spirit of recreational club tennis."
Limited to players 35 years of age and over (each team is allowed one player over 30 to play at one time), the teams are also limited to playing one teaching professional over the age of 50 and one USTA ranked 5.0 player at a time. The level of play ranges from 5.0-4.5 on Court One, to 4.0-3.5 on Court Five.
Mitch Kessler, who is captain of last year’s winning team, South Shore, has been playing in the league on Tuesday nights for 18 years and is impressed with the organization of the league and the opportunities it provides his players.
“As a traveling team, many of our players play our summer tennis indoors for USTA or outdoors at parks and schools,” said Kessler. “The NSMTL allows us to play high level of tennis as guests on beautiful club courts for a nominal price.”
Started in the mid-1970s, the Wednesday Night League, which is formally called the Long Island Men’s Tennis League (LIMTL), is limited to players 35 years or older and is made up mostly of 5.0 and 4.5 Level players. This league differs from the NSMTL in that there is no limit on the amount of 5.0 players or teaching professionals over the age of 50. It is not uncommon to see many of the top courts on Tuesday overlap into the Wednesday league.
“The Wednesday Night League (LIMTL) is the original true elite league on Long Island, and we are still going strong with a high level of play,” said Randy Coffee, who has been president of the LIMTL for more than 10 years.
Consisting of seven teams all with home courts, the rosters are loaded with the top teaching pros and amateurs coming from all parts of Long Island and New York City. The teams are Inwood Country Club (the only club from the South Shore), Shelter Rock, Piquet Lane, Great Neck Park, Cold Spring Valley, Bethpage (who plays their home matches at North Shore Towers) and Woodbury (who played their home matches last year at Crest Hollow Country Club). Lionel Goldberg who has played in both leagues for more than 13 years and is captain of the Inwood Country Club team on Wednesday nights, may have said it best when asked what makes the weeknight leagues so alluring.
"Unlike the USTA where matches start late, the start time of 6:00 p.m. allows for great camaraderie and dinners after the matches,” said Goldberg. “Sometimes, the dinners are more fun then the matches.” The Wednesday League, which has its own Web site with standings, match scores and rosters, can be found at www.limtl.com.
<p>Jonathan Klee is a partner at the Law Firm of Klee & Woolf LLP. He is the Long Island representative on the Eastern Grievance Committee, and currently serves as chair. He has played in league tennis since 2000, and has captained and played on many teams on Long Island. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.</p>