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Berlin’s tennis courts: The tried, tired and true

Keen to hit up a club but missing a membership? Well, our trials of five of Berlin's tennis courts shows that, like Berlin's summer and tennis itself, they can be hit or miss.

Image for Berlin’s tennis courts: The tried, tired and true
Photo by Astrid Warberg

Haven’t picked up a racket since Steffi Graf retired? Keen to hit up on one of Berlin-Brandenburg’s 197 registered clubs but missing a membership? From swanky to skanky, Exberliner previewed five public-friendly Berlin tennis clubs to help find your new home-court.

Old empire

Rot-Weiß – named for the red and white ribbons members once wore in their straw hats – is the crème de la crème of Berlin haute tennis. Amid Grunewald’s green leafy oasis, the seductive Gatsby-like air of the 16 immaculate outdoor and two indoor clay courts is steeped in history. Rot-Weiß was founded in 1897, hosting international meets including the Davis Cup in the 1940s and the Ladies’ German Open. Walk the memorabilia-lined carpeted corridors to peruse trophy-stuffed cabinets, framed winner’s photos and whole walls given over to honorary member Steffi Graf, then ape a real pro as you trade groundstrokes in the 7000-seat Steffi Graf Stadium (where Graf won the Open nine times), often used by Berlin’s world #15-ranked Sabine Lisicki. Swanky facilities include the gym, sauna and Grand Slam restaurant (Berliner Pilsener 30cl €2.70, wiener schnitzel with cranberries and potato salad €16.80) with terrace seating overlooking the lake. Last month the courts hosted six hours of Mattias Lillienthal’s adaptation of Infinite Jest with Rot-Weiß transformed into the Enfield Tennis Academy. History doesn’t come cheap though: a one-day pass for non-members costs €30, one-week €120, or yearly memberships, €1000. Note: visitors must wear white!

LTTC “ROT-WEIß” BERLIN, Gottfried-von-Cramm-Weg 47-55, S-Bhf Grunewald

To serve the people

In contrast to the manicured greens of Rot- Weiß, Berliner Brauereien are the people’s courts, born when (according to club lore) a resident wrote to the GDR’s Central Committee, outraged that a workers’ district like Prenzlauer Berg was court-less, stealing the game back from the West Berlin bourgeoisie. Celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, the cosy clubhouse is constructed of old Weihnachtsmarkt stalls, enjoying an unpretentious, homely vibe amid the somewhat grungy greenery and birdcalls of Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg. The six outdoor clay courts (plus a seventh on the way) are lit up, meaning you can rally into the night on some of Berlin’s cheapest courts (€12 per hour for guests, €10 for Exberliner readers who mention this article, memberships €200), then cool down with a beer (Schöfferhofer 50cl €1.50) on the plastic tables and chairs of the cement-paved outdoor patio.

SV BERLINER BRAUEREIEN, Hohenschönhauser Str. 76, Prenzlauer Berg/Lichtenberg, S-Bhf Landsberger Allee

Neukölln nets

Founded in 1848, TiB is Berlin’s oldest gymnastics and sports club, spread across 67,140sqm of hidden Neukölln parkland neighbouring Hasenheide. The reception feels like walking into a slightly sterile fitness complex, with a gym, showers and bistro to one side (Kindl 30cl €2.10, crowd-pleasing fare like Pommes €2.70 and burgers €6-8.40), and entrance to the badminton courts and three carpeted courts of the sticky sauna-like tennis hall through another door. Below steel rafters inevitably peppered with stuck balls, the carpet makes an oddly loud thud with each bounce. As a slower surface than the seven pleasant outdoor clay courts or the two slightly scuzzier ones across the road within Tempelhof Park, it’s low impact for dodgy knees and beginner-friendly, with TiB also offering shoe and racket hire. As one of Berlin’s cheapest options, hourly guest rates go from €13.50, hitting €24 at peak weekend times. Feeling rusty? The caged-in practice wall within Tempelhof is free and always open.  

TURNGEMEINDE IN BERLIN (TIB), Columbiadamm 111, Neukölln, U-Bhf Südstern

Location, location

Hidden just off Köpenicker Straße, this centrally located club established in 1989 dispenses with country club chic. What the courts lack in history, they make up with convenience and value, offering three outdoor clay courts (€12 per hour), one hard court (€10) and three indoor carpet courts (€14) under a disquieting supermarket- esque glow, plus racket and ball hire (€2.50) for the unequipped. Instead of a restaurant, the club sells snacks and drinks in the somewhat soulless reception area. For those wanting to get a little sweatier, there are one-hour “Cardiotennis” classes, combining high-intensity cardio activity with finessing that forehand.

TC BERLIN MITTE, Melchiorstr. 19, Mitte, U-Bhf Heinrich-Heine-Str.

Members only

Converted? When you’ve decided it’s time to commit, trek up north to Frohnau’s idyllic courts. Founded in 1921, the spiffy white terracotta-tiled clubhouse with prim outdoor tables and white tableclothed restaurant/bar Tie-Break (serving dishes like piri-piri chicken with salad and Pommes for €7.90) overlooks two indoor and seven impeccably-kept tree-lined clay courts, enjoyed by French troops during WWII. This is serious tennis: all around, sweatered oldies and pre-pubescents trade intimidating groundstrokes and, without dividers between courts, frequently mis-hitting a ball onto a neighbour’s court can become a shaming ordeal. Like many in Berlin, the club is not open to guests; you’ll fork out €380 for a one-year membership, students €240, but potentially be mixing it up with future German stars. Game on!

TENNIS-VEREINIGUNG FROHNAU, Schönfließer Str. 11a, S-Bhf Frohnau