During January’s Omicron lockdown, a delightful video landed in my inbox. It was filmed by longtime Sandy Hill resident Barry Padolsky and showed him playing tennis in the parking area behind his Range Road home.
If that sounds pretty par for the course given the past two years, consider that Padolsky’s winter tennis training involved moving two vehicles onto the road. This revealed a pair of cleared patches amidst the otherwise snowy surface — asphalt islands where, if he calculated his stroke just so, he could bounce the ball and continue his practice.
Padolsky is no stranger to backyard tennis. He inaugurated the Range Road tennis court shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Prior to the lockdown, he had been a regular at the nearby Rideau Sports Centre, playing up to three times a week.
Like many others, he was desperate to stay active when courts closed. Fortunately, his own back parking area presented a solution. The abutting property owners, the Embassy of Côte d’Ivoire, had recently replaced the historic stone retaining wall with a utilitarian concrete slab. This was done much to the dismay of Padolsky, a heritage architect and enthusiast. But perhaps it was fate.
“When I saw that wall, suddenly I was inspired,” recalls Padolsky. “I created a net line with white gorilla tape and there was the Range Road tennis court, all ready to play!” For precision’s sake, he even calculated his improvised net’s catenary curve, the natural dip that happens on actual tennis nets.
Soon, the court was attracting his tennis playing friends from across the city. “One or two players would show up and we’d keep our social distance. They would hit while I sat in the garage having a beer, and we’d trade off like that,” says Padolsky. He even hired one of the city’s tennis pros, Zhenya Kondratovski, for weekly training. “That was a lot of running,” Padolsky laughs.
About two-thirds the size of one side of a tennis court, Padolsky says the rapid pace of the game made it more akin to squash than tennis. “The benefit was that when you got back on a real tennis court, things really slowed down,” explains Padolsky, who says these solo rallies helped maintain his game over the course of the pandemic.
Though Padolsky is now back to regularly playing at the Rideau Sports Centre, he plans to continue hitting in his backyard — an activity that should be a little easier after spring thaw!