The rollercoaster ride that has been 2020 has seen tennis go through peaks and valleys in terms of participation throughout the year. The global pandemic led to a shutdown initially, but as tennis was deemed a safe sport, camps returned in the summer and clubs opened back up with safety protocols in place, resulting in an increased participation level, according to the USTA.
One person who saw this trend was Bill Levin, Owner of Topspin Tennis in Syosset. For more than 40 years, Levin and his family have been one of the top providers of tennis equipment for Long Islanders, and at the forefront of what he calls “Racket Science.”
“Through all the ups and downs businesses typically have, 2020 has obviously been the most volatile and unpredictable year of all,” he said. “When the pandemic emerged in March and April, our sales were basically zero. But for May and the rest of the year, there was a growth of sales like we’ve never seen before.”
Levin explains his thoughts on why that happened.
“We attribute the surge to a few factors,” he said. “First, we noticed an uptick of new players who were looking for physical activity, outside of the gym, which was socially distant and fun. And then there were those people who hadn’t played in 15-20 years who dug their rackets out of the attic or garage and headed to the courts again. These folks regained their love for the game and I believe most of them will continue or fantastic “Sport for Life”. And those frequent players continued to hit the courts with more frequency. Add it all up and we witnessed unprecedented waiting lines and crowds for the public and school courts.
Also noteworthy was that we saw large tennis organizations finally come out with a TV commercial promoting the social and health benefits which was widely neglected in the past.”
Levin knows a thing or two about the Long Island tennis community, and his thoughts on the state of tennis here come from his long experience as a key cog in the community. His parents started Topspin in 1977, and a few years later, Levin would buy the business and has been at the helm ever since.
“The opportunity to come and own my own business was too good to pass up. And it’s the tennis business, a fun business in the best sport. So my wife and I bought the business and the rest is history,” said Levin, who played baseball and hockey growing up, but was always a tennis fan. “You learn how to do things,” Levin said of owning a tennis shop having never played the sport beforehand. “I loved watching the sport. I started taking lessons myself, and started stringing rackets, and within a year, I was on top of it. It’s a job, yes, but it’s also a pastime.”
He takes great pride in being a top provider of tennis apparel, equipment and more to local residents, and his shop has also served as a hangout place for tennis enthusiasts.
“We connect with our customers. We’re similar to our corner bar, like the television show ‘Cheers’ where folks can hang out and watch the tennis channel,” said Levin. “Ironically, even with the changing retail environment, we’ve been able to thrive because of our huge selection, customer service, guaranteed satisfaction and the lowest prices. Our customers keep coming back because we have the largest inventory of shoes and rackets on Long Island. We have a comfortable atmosphere here. The people coming in are playing a sport, not going to the dentist, so they are upbeat, and it makes for a fun way to make a living.”
This year, of course, has been a bit different. With social distancing and limits on gatherings, it’s tougher to be around large groups of people, but there is hope that changes as we progress through 2021. As a integral member of the local tennis community, Levin has seen just how much the businesses have done to limit the spread of the virus by enacting safety measures so that the tennis business can continue to operate.
“No one knows what to expect for the coming months, but there is hope the virus will end when the vaccine is widely available. By this coming summer, I believe there will be more tennis, and pickleball, being played on Long Island than ever before,” he said. “Kudos to all the operators of the tennis clubs and facilities in Nassau and Suffolk counties. They have kept to strict safety protocols which have protected the players extremely well. These measures enhanced not only their business but added to the health of the community.”
Levin is confident that these measures have helped, and we will come out on the other side better than ever. As a business owner, having to adjust and adapt is nothing new, and he is optimistic for what 2021 and beyond will bring.
“With regards to Topspin’s business, we must always be adaptable to changes in our industry, such as the internet, competition and other trends that keep us on our toes,” he said. “Our business has been a Labor of Love, and we will continue to participate in the continuous growth of tennis for years to come.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.