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I have been playing tennis since I was 13 years old (and boy am I tired). From the moment I landed in Nairobi with my tennis rackets, I have been asking where the tennis courts are located. I heard about three tennis clubs within the first week – Railway Sports Club, Nairobi Sports Club, and the Impala Sports Club.

Railway Sports Club

The Railway Sports Club borders one of the major roads in downtown Nairobi and is within walking distance from where I am staying. One afternoon I packed up my rackets and made the short trek. The Railway Sports Club has a basketball court, a small pool, three tennis courts, and a small restaurant/pub/club house. When I stepped onto the tennis courts, what I thought was red clay was actually dirt. White chalk lines defined the court, in addition to an old net. I had never played on dirt but was willing to give it a try by hitting with one of the tennis coaches. Over the next 15 minutes, the ball skidded, hopped, and ricochet unexpectedly as it hit exposed hard rock or coarse dirt. Moving on the dirt was precarious which made me tentative about sliding or running for fear of injuring myself. After the 15 minutes of essentially picking up balls that sprayed all over the place, I decided to pack it in. I gave up. The dirt beat me good.

Nairobi Sports Club

I also checked out the Nairobi Sports Club but I needed a member to recommend me before I could join, even for the three weeks that I’m here. One of the staff members told me that it’s difficult to find people to play with anyway, so I moved on.

Impala Sports Club

My next trip was to the Impala Sports Club which required a 20 minute taxi ride to get there. The club has five dirt tennis courts, a rugby field, cricket field, pool, and a state of the art gym. I played two sets of tennis against the coach on the slightly better courts and it was manageable. I lost 6-4, 6-4 but had a pretty good time playing in the afternoon sunshine, although I found the smog and altitude a bit difficult to deal with. Afterwards, I decided to join the club given its facilities and nominal fee of $12 for the month.

Jim Davis Tennis Academy

Despite joining the Impala Club, I was feeling discouraged by the apparent lack of hard courts but then one day someone mentioned the Jim Davis Tennis Academy. A tennis academy? I looked it up in the phone book and hopped in a taxi, eagerly anticipating what the tennis academy was going to look like. It turns out that it is on the way to the Impala Club but it’s quite hidden on a small side road, nestled amongst homes in a quiet neighborhood. The academy was built about 20 years ago (by Jim Davis who lives on the compound) and has three (fast) hard courts and four coaches. I played one of the coaches and won 7-5, 6-3 and am looking forward to playing the others. I also met a Japanese political analyst who is working in Kenya, and I’m looking forward to playing him on the weekend.

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