I’ve developed a nice little tennis habit since migrating south. I’ve played tennis (extremely amateurly) since middle school but haven’t played as consistently as I’ve been playing in years.
My friend Eric and I had a summer series where we played once or twice a week between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend, and the loser was tasked with buying the winner dinner at a restaurant of his choice. Spoiler alert: I was the loser, which we won’t dwell on because I’m still bitter. I purchased his well-won dinner at Avenue M recently (where I had my first fried green tomato, which I was surprisingly into). What we’ll dwell on, much like some dog owners and their pets start looking alike, is how the patrons of the two Asheville tennis courts I frequent most really come to personify the essence of their respective courts.
Montford Park is my preferred tennis locale. The courts are new, have benches (which makes more than a difference than you might think), and maybe because they are painted a cheery blue instead of just black pavement, the Montford courts don’t feel as oppressively hot in the summer sun. What you also get in Montford, one of Asheville’s oldest, wealthiest neighborhoods, is an older, richer, very entitled crowd, embodied most by:
Let’s start with the pickle ballers. The pickle ballers of Montford are officially my #2 Asheville nemeses after one Mr. Madison Cawthorn. The pickle ballers travel in large packs, don’t follow the universal “hour on the court” time every other public-park tennis player adheres to, and don’t seem too upset about their balls constantly flying into your game. They also won’t hesitate to let you know how impatient they are if they have to wait for you to finish. Now, sure, #notallpickleballers, but I feel confident trashing the majority of them on the record.
Beverly is a tennis instructor we arbitrarily call Beverly because, at one point, we constructed an elaborate hypothetical backstory on her that I can’t recall, and that was her chosen name. Beverly has a sensible haircut, always wears tennis skirts, and just knows in her bones that the Montford tennis courts revolve around her whims. When Eric once asked Beverly if she and a student could stop letting their practice serves roll into our game, she replied that, “it doesn’t look like you two are playing a real game over there.”
Now, Beverly is occasionally slumming it over at Weaver Park on Merrimon Avenue, my second-choice tennis locale that we utilize whenever the pickle ballers win. Still, she embodies the Montford Court people, which is why I include her there.
The Weaver Park courts are black-top paved, hot, benchless, surrounded by a chainlink fence, and have the feel of courts that have been long abandoned to the elements even though they’re well-trafficked.
The players at Merrimon are a little less polished, definitely more polite, and 100% personified by another tennis instructor that frequents these courts, one we never named based on a forgotten hypothetical backstory, but who I’ll call Guy, because he, as the kids say, has big Guy Fieri energy (I promise whatever you’re picturing is probably accurate).
Guy’s students are a harem of female retirees, well-to-do for sure, but not as uppity as their Montford counterparts (my guess is they live in Fairview or Black Mountain). Guy wears a visor, has spiky hair that looks unwashed, drives an old VW bus (that we did assume he often uses to conduct affairs with his students), and does not have what you’d call a “tennis build.” Guy, like Beverly, also likes to pretend he’s the only one on the courts, blasting his tiny speakers as loud as they’ll go. We’ve never complained to him the way we bitched to Beverly, though. Why? Well, maybe we’re misogynists. Or, perhaps it’s hard to be mad about hearing UB40’s “Red, Red, Wine” blasting unexpectedly during early morning, weekday tennis matches.