Grand Central Station has a tennis court hiding in its rafters

Mel Villa on the main court. (Photo by Alex Mitchell)

High above the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station, the Vanderbilt Tennis Club continues to be one of the city’s best kept sporting secrets.

Hiding in the iconic transit hub’s rafters, on the fourth floor of Grand Central, since the 1960s, the Vanderbilt Tennis Club features a lesser known, regulation-size tennis court that gets plenty of natural lighting from the famous gigantic windows that offer a bird’s-eye view of the usually stand still traffic on Park Avenue.

It’s a must-visit for tennis legends like Serena Williams, Andy Murray, James Blake and other greats of the game. According to Vanderbilt tennis pro Dadi Zvulun, they usually pop in for a match during the winter to prep for invitationals at Madison Square Garden.

A view of Vanderbilt’s mezzanine from the main court’s baseline.

He’s been training and playing there since 2011, when Vanderbilt reopened after undergoing construction and consolidation as the MTA extended its facility space on that floor.

“Now the court features plenty of backspace, which really gives it a professional feel,” Zvulun said.

He also explained that construction workers even had to bring in supplies through the massive windows connected to Vanderbilt for the rather lengthy project.

Prior to that, the two-story facility had two courts for players’ use — though the necessary renovation paved way for one of the more unique practice facilities for the spot to come about.

After having to cut down its second court in half, Vanderbilt converted the remains into two training lanes that are uncommon to the average tennis facility.

The two practice lanes at Vanderbilt.

“Essentially it’s a batting cage but for tennis and as far as we know there aren’t any others like this out there,” said fellow Vanderbilt pro Mel Villa.

Just like cages, these two lanes have a self-operational box where players control the automated ball feeder’s speed, height, spin and plenty of other training factors which Vanderbilt utilizes for its after school junior camp that Villa and Zvulun train.

Villa also spends his bright and early mornings hitting with “the hedge fund crew,” better known as Wall Streeters that come in when Vanderbilt Opens at 6 a.m.

Opposite to the athletic financiers, he and other club pros hit with the “night owls,” who come by until the club shuts at 2 a.m. as well — that night owl time slot also features a reduced rate, similar to a twilight tee time in golf.

“It’s really cool looking out at the skyline from the big window at night,” Villa said before serving on the main court. 

The main court at Vanderbilt Tennis Club.

Given this secret’s popularity within the circle of those few that know, Vanderbilt recommends booking at least two weeks in advance of a desired date.

Sometimes people don’t even come to play tennis as much as to find out whether or not there’s actually a tennis court in Grand Central Station.

“It’s still one of the best kept secrets in New York City,” Zvulun said.

Alex Mitchell