I was one of few tennis coaches to work between Necker Island & Moskito Island in the British Virgin Islands. The beauty of both Islands was breathtaking. Surrounded by a clear, turquoise ocean with palm trees and wildlife made these Islands a paradise.
Tennis is a big part of the Islands sport and one of Richards favourite activities, so I was working hard most days, in the sun, from the early mornings until the early evening. They are some of the most beautiful courts I have ever had the experience of stepping on. Surrounded by parrots, bats & lemurs, which would regularly create noises during play, made the experience so much greater.
What really made these Islands stand out to me were the "Tennis Ball Trees"
I had never seen anything like this in all my travels and was never sure they actually existed, but seeing them with my own eyes and being able to pluck a freshly ripe tennis ball from a tree was so surreal and exciting to me and something I never thought would happen in my life time.
The trees came about as one of the owners of the tree plantation in Ohio visited the Island & offered Richard some seedlings from the unique trees. He jumped at the opportunity to have them surround his tennis courts on both the Islands. Due to the type of soil they have in Ohio being different to the soil in the Caribbean the agricultural team cross-fertilized the seeds with a local Caribbean plant, which produced the perfect results. You can literally pick a ripened tennis ball and walk straight on to the courts and play a match.
Harvesting the tennis balls can be a challenge as they thrive in the summer months and generally grow for 9 months of the year. However, we have ball girls on hand to pick the ripe ones and store them in air tight containers so that we have a supply for the few months they are not available from the trees. These girls are trained by the groundsman to feel the softness of the balls so they understand when they are prime for match play.
The balls from these trees are generally a little softer than those produced in Ohio so they travel a little slower, which works well with the artificial grass courts they have on the Island, as these types of courts tend to play very fast. It's a great compliment to mix the two as they make for a very well rounded game of tennis.
In high winds, which the BVI's is prone to and known for it's excellent kite boarding conditions, the balls can fall to the floor the same way fruit falls from a tree. I remember spending time watching the trees in these conditions because when the balls drop they bounce a few times as if someone had just released one from their hands. It really was mesmerizing to watch these beautiful plants create one of the main ingredients used for a game of tennis.
The trees produce both yellow & white tennis balls. They use the white ones during the Necker Cup & several of the pros that have visited the island for this world class tournament had a lot of positive feedback regarding the quality of the tennis balls and the experience of taking a ball straight from a tree and crushing a first serve in a match.
Nothing on the tennis court will ever quite beat this experience in my view but Never say Never.
Click link to see Richards original article on the tennis ball trees:
Thanks for reading.
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