Saturday, 10 October 2015

Playing Tennis in Seoul!

My first ever visit to Seoul On my first ever weekend during my two-week visit to Seoul years ago, I was showed around Seoul by Bella and her husband Junggu. When we drove through the Hannam-dong neighborhood in the Yongsan District, I immediately spotted tennis courts  from the car. And even though I couldn't see the actual courts, those high light posts and tall screen wires were a give-away! That time, I knew they were tennis courts! But what I didn't know was that I would be living in that neighborhood, and those tennis courts would just be minutes away from my apartment! Who would have thought that the first tennis courts I spotted in Seoul would be my favorite clay courts in the city?!

And when I finally settled in that summer, I wasted no time and visited the tennis courts one weekend. And over the years, and perhaps a thousand forehands later, I have been playing on the best clay courts in Seoul! Well, since the courts are very good, rental for one-hour is quite pricey. 

According to my tennis friend, Dong-Eun, decades ago, the Korean government promoted the sport of tennis by creating tennis courts all over the country, usually around the neighborhoods. This was the time when the sitting president then was a tennis player himself. Maybe that's why I always see in the Hannamdong clay courts a lot of old ajussis and ajummas still playing in their 70s, and perhaps even in their 80s. Maybe when they were young, that was when the government promoted the sports, enabling them to learn tennis at a young age. And they're still playing well until now! I remember when I used to play at the clay courts of Sogang University, I played doubles against Father Thomas, a Korean Jesuit priest. I was told he was already in his 90s!

                          (Go Seoda of Japan)
So, if you want to polish that forehand and improve that backhand, you can always find a tennis court around a cluster of suburban apartments near you. There are also tennis courts inside the schools and universities. 

In Seoul, the hard courts at Olympic Park (Olympic Park Station, Line 5, Exit 3) and Jangchung Tennis Courts (Dongkuk University Station, Line 3, Exit 6) are probably the best. 

While the neighborhood clay courts may do, the clay courts of Hannam-dong Tennis Courts (those on the 2nd and 3rd levels) are the best clay courts in Seoul. They're located in Hannam-dong in the Yongsan District (Beotigogae Station, Line 6, Exit 3).

                      (Duck-Hee Lee of Korea)
                      (Philip Bester of Canada)

The tennis courts of Olympic Park hosts the annual WTA event where you can see female professional tennis players slug it out against each other. This was the venue for tennis during the 1988 Seoul Olympics where Steffi Graf won the gold medal and completed her Golden Slam that year.

            (The Korean tennis prodigy Hyeon Chung 
                           being interviewed)

See you at the tennis courts!

PS. The photos below were from the ATP challenger event held at the Olympic Park in May, which was won by Go Seoda from Japan. The runner-up was the Korean teenage prodigy Hyeon Chung.

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