READYING RED BANK’S RED CLAY COURTS

It doesn’t look very red now, but the outlook for fans of Red Bank’s red clay courts is rosy. (Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

A recent visit to Red Bank’s clay tennis courts in Marine Park found the riverfront facility deserted and unusually quiet. The courts, cracked and faded, looked more like a stretch of beige sand than a popular spot for athletes to brush up on their skills.

Not to worry though, for this is an annual lull. Over the next month or so, the only player working these courts will be court manager Rich Nicoletti, who’s been tending the facility, and its patrons, for decades.

“What you’re looking at here is the wear-and-tear of winter,” says Nicoletti. And its his job to bring the playing surface back to dusty-red glory, he said.

Each spring, the courts are stripped down to their bottom layer as Nicoletti and a team work their magic to revive one of America’s tennis rarities.

“It’s a long process,” Nicoletti said. “Repairing the damage, smoothing it out, laying the clay and the slate, nailing the lines.”

You read correctly: the court boundaries aren’t merely sprayed on. Long strips  of fabric are cut and, one by one, nailed to the court by hand.

It sounds like an arduous task, but the wait shouldn’t be too long.

“By mid-May, we hope to be just about finished,” said Nicoletti. “Then you can come back here and have your tennis match on our beautiful red clay.”

The courts are open to the public from May 26 to mid-October, seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to sundown. But they’re not free: court usage costs $28 per hour, though members get unlimited use. See the facility website for a schedule of fees for borough residents and non-residents.

For more information on the courts or lessons with “Coach Rich,” call (732) 530-2737 or email.

You can also check out redbankgreen’s 2007 article on the courts here.