Meet the Tennis Center Staff: April Miller Lopez

August 9, 2022

Prospect Park’s courts require a labor of love to stay in their excellent condition, and April Miller Lopez, Prospect Park Tennis Center’s Senior Facility Maintainer is who makes it happen. With over five years experience at the Tennis Center, April has overseen and taken on a wide range of duties to keep the courts rally-ready at all times of year.

For one hour a day in the summer, April waters each of the center’s nine clay courts meticulously to protect the surface in extreme summer temperatures. “Outdoor season is my favorite season,” says April, “I love having that hour to focus solely on the courts and zone in to what needs to be done. The watering is like my ‘me-time’.” In the indoor season, when the courts cannot close for even an hour during the hours of operation, when play is nonstop, court repairs, watering and rolling happen after hours.

Adrian Clarke, the Tennis Center’s Director, explains: “These are high-maintenance courts, and April is the force that keeps our courts so pristine.”

Over the past two springs, the Tennis Center has contracted with a company called Oval Tennis to provide tips and training on how to best maintain our clay courts, and over those two years April and her team have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge which they have poured into caring for the courts. With this new knowledge and advancement, the Tennis Center team no longer has to “patch” the courts when damaged, but instead can repair entire areas when needed, which is a prominent area of April’s work. “It makes a difference to our players. The community has made it known that they can tell that our quality of care for the courts is always improving, which is what it’s all about. People are constantly praising the courts now and that’s a testament to April’s work.”

On what’s to come in the future of the Tennis Center, April says she is looking forward to seeing how things continue to change over the next seasons, “With the upcoming permanent fabric fixtures, I’m excited to see the shift for how the courts will work in the future–it will feel different than what we’re used to, with the bubble we have now. It’ll be the end of an era, but we’re looking forward to the future and continuing to provide a high quality experience to our players”.

Learn more about programming at the Prospect Park Tennis Center and sign up for tournaments, court time, lessons and more. 

FURI Sport’s Prospect Park Origins

September 29, 2021

Erick Mathelier, co-founder of tennis equipment brand FURI Sport, has a long history with the Prospect Park Tennis Center—he started playing on the courts at age 10. We spoke to Mathelier about his Brooklyn tennis roots, how his love of the game inspired him to start a company, and his reconnection with the Prospect Park Tennis Center. 

What is your background with the Prospect Park Tennis Center?
My first experience with the Prospect Park Tennis Center was at the age of 10, when I took my first tennis lesson and fell in love with the sport. I would take lessons there every Saturday. I didn’t realize it then, but Prospect Park Tennis Center was a magical place, at a time in my life that was integral to my development as a human being. For those five years that I played and took tennis lessons there, it served as my second home. I have nothing but fond memories of hanging out in the clubhouse all day, trying to play tennis whenever there was an open court; the lifelong friendships I made; the different types of personalities I interacted with. Prospect Tennis Center opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed, and I will be forever grateful for this time in my life. 

Tell us a little about FURI Sport and why you started it.
My business partner and I passionately believe that tennis has a diverse, rich culture. All different races love to play—at Prospect Park Tennis Center, you have a diverse clientele of players, but the public perception of the sport doesn’t reflect that diversity. FURI Sport was founded in 2016 to change this. We want to redefine tennis for the modern player, with a focus on value, inclusivity, and community. This means our equipment combines the most advanced technology with fair pricing; apparel that takes you from the court to the street; and through partnerships with nonprofits, we’re supporting the game at a grass-roots level in some of the most needy neighborhoods.

For me, the opportunity to work/collaborate with the Prospect Park Tennis Center is like coming home. I believe there’s a lot of alignment, so I’m excited about what’s in store for us in the future.

Stay tuned for more about FURI Sport at the Prospect Park Tennis Center, and learn more about tennis in Prospect Park.

 

Meet Adrian Clarke, Director of the Tennis Center

March 18, 2021

After years as a beloved tennis pro at the Prospect Park Tennis Center., Adrian Clarke was recently appointed as the Tennis Center Director after its longtime director, Paul Campbell, retired. Clarke has been called a “renaissance man,” and in addition to a history of professional tennis, he has degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing, and plays steelpan drums! Get to know Prospect Park Alliance’s newest director and then sign up for a lesson today at the Prospect Park Tennis Center. 

How did you start playing tennis?
I started playing tennis at 12 years old in Barbados, where I was born and where I went to school. The main sports in Barbados were cricket and soccer, but the headmaster at my public school had tennis courts built—if I had gone to another school I never would have played tennis. My brother started playing tennis and I followed him there. I found that I liked it a lot, and I stayed with it. I played my first tournament when I was 15, and the following year I became good enough to represent the island and got to travel to neighboring islands to play. At the time, there were no coaches in Barbados and they didn’t show tennis on TV in the Caribbean, so we learned on our own—through trial and error. 

And then you moved to Brooklyn?
I came to the United States at 17 years old, and moved with my family to Brooklyn, near Grand Army Plaza. Friends of ours showed us where the tennis courts were in Prospect Park and we played about once a week at the Parade Ground. We played Saturday mornings at 7 o’clock and after work. That is one of the reasons that the courts are special to me—I’ve known them for so long and I have a passion for making them better. 

Tell us about your professional tennis experience.
From playing tennis sporadically, I started playing in tournaments and I entered a tournament at the Port Washington Tennis Academy in Long Island, and in those days, that was the big academy. In the tournament, I played against the son of the owner of the academy and beat him, and when we came to the net to shake hands, he said, “How would you like to train here?” And that’s how I got the opportunity to play good tennis. The best player at the Port Washington Tennis Academy at the time was John McEnroe, Vitas Gerulaitis practiced there often, and I was on the ladder as one of the best players. I got my introduction there to a really high level of tennis for a year and a half before I went to college and played tennis at Hampton University. After I graduated, I joined the professional tour for a little while, but was frustrated by how expensive it was and how elitist it was. In 1983, I played in the U.S. Open, which had been a great dream of mine, and which I’m so proud. I lost my match, and the next day I signed up for my Masters degree. 

You continued to spend time in Barbados?
Yes, there was a lot I could do for tennis in Barbados, so I went back and coached some kids on scholarship—but the last thing of consequence I did there was set up an international junior tournament. As a child, I had never seen good tennis, and I figured that there must be people like me who have a dream but don’t have the access to travel, so I founded the tournament as a way to bring good players to Barbados. That tournament has now been going on for more than 25 years. 

How did you come back to tennis in Prospect Park?
I was teaching Junior High School English, and I enrolled my daughter in tennis at Prospect Park. By that time Paul Campbell and (former pro) Paul Curtin, who I had known for a long time, were at the Prospect Park Tennis Center—and they started asking me to fill in to help with the Junior Development Program. I did a bit of that and eventually I came on as an instructor full time. That was about 11 years ago and it’s been great to work in Brooklyn where I live. 

Now that you’re the Director of the Tennis Center, what are your aspirations?
I’m very excited to be the Director of the Tennis Center, in this place where I grew up playing. I want to get the courts to a high standard and continue to improve the experience for our players. I want to continue to develop our Junior Development Program to be a resource for talented kids, I want to inspire our coaches. I want players to know that they can come from anywhere in the world and have a great tennis experience in Prospect Park. 

I’ve reached out to some of the kids playing at the center, and I’ve told them to let me know if there are ways I can help them. I got to play tennis and reach a high level because I received help from so many people, and I feel like if I’m ever in a position to give or help, I’m going to try. And my feeling is, if we’re doing what we can to help you, you’re going to respect the place and the people who are working here. 

I think if I’m able to accomplish some of those things, I’ll be satisfied. Then I can ride off into the sunset. 

You’ve been referred to as a “renaissance man,” what are some of your favorite hobbies outside of tennis?
I love to write, I’ve published some short stories in literary journals, and I love to read. I also play steelpan drum professionally, I play for folks all over the Tristate area and I plan to continue though a bit less, it really relaxes me.

 

c. Andrew Gardner

2020 Winter Checklist

December 17, 2019

As we approach 2020, Prospect Park Alliance encourages you to look ahead to the fun that the new year has in store! From fireworks to sledding, winter walks and curling, we’ve put together 7 perfectly-park activities for you to check off your list in the new year. Take a look and we’ll see you in the park. 

Kick of the New Year with Fireworks!
Join Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and Prospect Park Alliance for Brooklyn’s most spectacular New Year’s Eve Fireworks Celebration at Prospect Park’s iconic Grand Army Plaza. This free event includes live entertainment followed by fireworks at the stroke of midnight. This family-friendly fireworks display, now in its 40th year, attracts tens of thousands of revelers to Prospect Park, making it one of the city’s most popular celebrations. This event is free and open to the public, and will take place rain or shine. RSVP to let us know that you are coming!
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Make the Most of Your Holiday Tree
Join Prospect Park Alliance on January 4 + 11 for Mulchfest! Bring your holiday tree to Prospect Park, where it will go through a chipper and transform into environment-friendly mulch at both 3rd Street and Park Circle Entrances. Plus, you can take some home for your own yard or garden. Learn more about this beloved tradition—including how to volunteer. 
 

Get Out on the Ice
Enjoy a beloved winter tradition in Prospect Park—head down to the rinks at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside for hours of fun. There’s room for all ages and abilities, and make sure to warm up and refuel with hot chocolate at the Bluestone Café. Plus, the rinks aren’t just for ice skating—sign up for a curling lesson, hockey league, and even plan a birthday party at this popular recreational destination. Lakeside is open everyday in-season, including New Years day!
 

Try a Winter Walk or Run
Looking forward to enjoying Prospect Park’s natural spaces during this beautiful time of year? We can help with that! We’ve put together a suggested Winter Walk in Prospect Park to help you explore Lookout Hill. If running is your preferred speed, don’t miss our Cold Weather Running Tips that will help you make the most of a workout at this time of year. 
 

Get Ready to Sled!
Both through nature and by design, Prospect Park’s landscape is dotted with rolling hills, which makes it prime territory for winter sledding. When conditions are right, make sure to stop by the top sledding destinations in Brooklyn’s Backyard. Get there early, you’ll be competing with all of Brooklyn for a spot on the slopes!
 

Game, Set, Match
Planning on making a New Year’s resolution to get in shape? The Prospect Park Tennis Center is the perfect place to meet your goals while enjoying this fun activity. Play under the bubble on the facility’s indoor courts all winter long and improve your tennis—whether you’re a beginner or just hoping to take your game to the next level. 

Martin Seck

Winter Recess Festivities at Prospect Park

November 19, 2019

Prospect Park Alliance interrupts your regular device-filled schedule for some hands-on holiday activities at Prospect Park! Getting outside during short winter days is a great mood booster and a welcome break from the winter grind. And what better time to shake it up than the holiday season? During Winter Recess, December 26-30, Prospect Park has something for everyone, whether you’re hoping to spend quality time with your kids, commune with nature, or spend a day at the tennis courts. Whatever it is, grab a loved one, bundle up and head over to Prospect Park to make lasting memories during the most wonderful time of the year.

Gilded Frame Making
December 26–29, 1–3 pm
Lefferts Historic House, $3 suggested donation

Looking to get crafty this winter recess? Join Prospect Park Alliance at Lefferts Historic House for “gilded frame” making! Gilding refers to the practice of applying a thin layer of gold leaf over a given object. In days past, wealthy citizens often had a collection of gilded items, from candle holders and mirrors to frames for works of art. The gilded frames made at Lefferts Historic House are perfect for holding holiday photos and pictures of other special memories.

Nature Exploration
December 26–29, 12–4 pm
Prospect Park Audubon Center, Free

When’s the last time you watched a snake eat dinner? Have you ever held a hissing cockroach? Or spotted an Indian walking stick hiding among leaves and branches? Join Prospect Park Alliance at Prospect Park Audubon Center for Winter Recess, where you can do all that and more during Nature Exploration.

  • Discovery Pack, 12–3 pm: The Prospect Park Alliance invites you to get inspired by nature with our Discovery Packs, ready-to-go kits filled with nature activities for families.
  • Bird Nerd Game Hour, 1–2 pm: Learn about birds and nature in this fun, mildly competitive hour of trivia, bingo, card games, and more! Prizes will be available for all participants. 
  • Animal Encounter, 2–3 pm: Join Alliance Naturalists in learning more about the animals in the Audubon Center’s collection. This program starts promptly at 2 pm.
  • Winter Wilderness Walk, 3–4 pm: Curious about animal tracks in the snow, how trees survive without leaves, or how bugs stay warm? Join an Alliance Naturalist for a tour of how plants and animals live in the winter months. This program leaves from the Audubon Center promptly at 3 pm.

Tennis Holiday Adult & Junior Programming
December 26, 27 + 30, 1–4 pm
Prospect Park Tennis Center, $80/day, Registration Required

If you’ve been looking forward to a few days off so you can improve your tennis game, we have just the thing for you! On December 26, 27 and 30, Prospect Park Tennis Center will offer intensive, 3-hour group classes for adults and children of all levels of experience. Our accomplished staff of tennis professionals will give players personal attention while they acquire game fundamentals and increase their skill level. Don’t worry about snow, rain or sleet, because all Tennis Holiday Programming will take place inside the Tennis Center’s seasonal bubble.

Resolve to Stay Fit in 2019: Play Tennis

January 10, 2019

For many of us, the start  of a new year is the perfect time to refocus our health and fitness goals. An excellent way of staying fit in the colder months is to play indoor tennis at the Prospect Park Tennis Center, which features 11 heated, indoor courts.

“Tennis is often not thought of as an aerobic exercise, but a good match can provide a really strenuous workout that builds strength, agility and burns calories,” says Paul Campbell, Director of the Prospect Park Tennis Center. “Most importantly, tennis is fun so people tend to stay with it.”

Prospect Park Alliance offers a variety of tennis play and instruction for all ages and skill levels. Youth can take part in group instruction in our Junior Development program, or take intensive classes during the upcoming President’s Week school break. Adults can find leagues of their own, and sign up for group or private lessons with our pros. And, with courts open from 7 am to 11 pm, seven days a week, there’s no bad time to get started!

Why choose tennis over another sport? “People that learn tennis often continue playing well into their later years,” says Campbell. Knowing how to play tennis is a lifelong skill, and “it frequently fosters friendships and camaraderie that can last a lifetime.”

Ready to get started? All you really need are a pair of sneakers, balls and rackets are available for sale or rent at the Center, and included in the cost of a lesson.

Learn more about the various Tennis Center offerings for adults and children, and see you on the court!

Tennis Pro Adrian Clarke Shares 3 Tips to Improve Your Serve

March 15, 2017

The tennis pros at the Prospect Park Tennis Center provide expert instruction to adults and children. This month we caught up with Adrian Clarke, one of the Tennis Center’s experienced professionals. A Barbados tennis legend, Adrian has represented the Caribbean in the Davis Cup. He has been living in Brooklyn for 44 years and has been working for the Prospect Park Tennis Center for 10 years, teaching players of all ages and levels. Adrian shared his 3 tips for the perfect serve:

1. The perfect toss: Adrian admits that even the pros often have trouble with their toss. He suggests keeping your wrist and elbow straight during your toss to allow for maximum control. Then, instead of throwing the ball into the air, try simply placing it with your outstretched arm.

2. A power stance: Stand on a diagonal so that your shoulders turn as you hit the ball instead of facing directly across the court. This rotation will put power behind your serve. Adrian calls this “the trophy stance”.

3. Perfect placement: Having trouble putting power behind your serve? No worries! Adrian suggests learning to place your serve in a couple of different spots on the court. This way, you can vary where your serve lands and keep your opponent on their toes.

Want to up your game? Sign up for lessons at the tennis center to work with Adrian and other outstanding tennis professionals. Pros at the tennis center give students of all ages personalized attention while they acquire fundamentals and increase their skill level.

 

Spotlight on Tennis Center’s Sebastian Brustein

February 16, 2017

The Prospect Park Tennis Center offers instruction for children of all levels of experience. The accomplished staff of tennis professionals gives players personal attention while they acquire game fundamentals and increase their skill level.

The Junior Program currently has a crop of talented young players coming up through the ranks including Sebastian Brustein. Brustein has been playing at the Prospect Park Tennis Center since the age of eight and competing in USTA sanctioned tournaments since the age of nine. He is currently ranked #2 in the United States Tennis Association metro region—with an overall record of 20-8—in the 12U Boy’s Singles Division. Brustein most recently won the Level 1 12U Boy’s February Challenger. With this win, he should have enough points to break the top 100 in the USTA Eastern Division (overall record 27-15). 

Brustein is also an accomplished quarterback, and has led his flag football team to 4 consecutive championships! When not playing tennis or football, he can be found honing his skills on Madden AND CSGO, and wishes someone would come out with a decent video game for tennis!

On February 27, the Prospect Park Tennis Center begins a new semester for the Indoor Junior Development Program. Take a look at our website and sign up for lessons! Your young tennis player will thank you. 

c. Paul Campbell

PPA Profiles: Adam Borak

May 11, 2016

For Adam Borack, a high school senior and Park Slope native, tennis is a family affair. “My brother, Mikolaj, is three and a half years older than me, so when I got to be old enough to start trying sports, my parents signed him up for lessons at the Prospect Park Tennis Center,” Adam recalls. “They didn’t want to pay for a babysitter, I guess, so I was there from the time I was a toddler, always around the sport!”

This early exposure to the sport more than piqued young Adam’s interest in tennis. His present daily schedule underscores his passion for the game. “Most days, I go straight from school to practice, and don’t get home until 9 or 9:30 pm, but I don’t mind.”

Now one of the Brooklyn’s top junior players, Adam is clearly no longer just the little brother on the sidelines. He’s competed in international tournaments as far away as the Cayman Islands. At his most recent tournament, he was narrowly edged out in his opening match. “I’m still haunted by that match, and I honestly think I should have won it,” says Adam. “But outcomes aside, I’m friends with a lot of the other players I meet at these competitions.” 

And while his aspirations within the sport extend far beyond the reach of Brooklyn, and Adam has squared up against some of the top junior players from Brazil and Germany, he’s quick to credit his roots for his successes. “I wouldn’t be at this level without being treated so well at the Prospect Park Tennis Center.”

For Adam, who was introduced to tennis by way of his brother’s involvement, his decision to continue playing at the next level was only natural. This fall, Adam will enroll at Fordham University in the Bronx, where just like his older brother he will compete for the tennis team and study finance. The duo will first team up to defend their title at the Prospect Park Tennis Center Championship in the Men’s Doubles division.

Learn more about the junior development program at the Tennis Center.

Time for Outdoor Tennis

Springtime has returned to Brooklyn. And for the borough’s tennis fanatics that can only mean one thing.

The transition from indoor to outdoor play, which began on Sunday, May 1, will be completed by Saturday, May 14. For most Brooklyn-dwelling tennis aficionados, that means a return to the great outdoors when taking to the courts. But for the dedicated staff of the Prospect Park Tennis Center, things aren’t quite so simple.

A lot goes into transitioning the Center from its indoor, bubbled configuration. “The courts need to be prepped,” says Paul Campbell, the Prospect Park Alliance’s Tennis Center Director, understatedly. Removal of the bubbles is only half the battle.

Taking the tennis bubbles down is a task handled by an outside contractor the specializes in this work. “Each bubble is broken down into three sections, which are then rolled up and stored near the police station for safe keeping,” explains Campbell.

All that’s left is to turn on the Musco lighting – the same lighting system that the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center uses for the US Open – to illuminate the courts. 

Learn more about and register for great outdoor programming at the Prospect Park Tennis Center!