In 2019, I was practicing on one of the outer courts of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY when I stumbled on a shocking display of environmental indifference. No exaggeration, 50+ plastic water bottles, sports drinks, and empty tennis balls cans all piled into a trash bin when a recycle bin was literally directly next to it. On every court at the US Open, there are two bright large containers right next to each other – a blue one clearly marked TRASH and a green one clearly marked ‘RECYCLE’ with ♻ symbols all over it.
When I walked by the bins after my session to toss away my water bottles and empty tennis ball cans I was appalled. Sure, tennis is a global sport, but the language barrier is not an excuse for this one. How hard is it to toss your plastics in the bin literally next to it? It’s the bare minimum. Shocking to say the least. From there I began to think about how my life on the tennis tour was filled with ways I could be way more environmentally sustainable. Here’s how I’ve tried to make a small dent:
Use fewer single-use plastics. Sports in general but tennis, in particular, is king of single-use plastics. Locker rooms are lined with sports drinks and water bottles, and we go through hundreds of tennis ball cans in a season. I do my best to travel with a quality water bottle that I can refill and easily add my electrolyte powders to. Unfortunately, some tournaments make this hard without a decent water fountain around.
Try to use clothing made from recycled or sustainable materials. Rhone just dropped a dope eco-friendly shirt that fits and feels amazing when I’m on and off the court. The quality of materials at Rhone also makes my gear last longer even when I’m sweating and using the clothes constantly while training.
Recycle old tennis balls. When I was in college our coach would always donate our used balls to schools, police stations, and other office spaces that could use them as chair stoppers, etc. As a professional, when I am at my home training facility, I’ve tried to continue that. There are also many tennis ball recycling programs that chop the balls up to do things ranging from using them for rubber mats all the way to new tennis court surface.