Hearty tennis quartet from Hudson play outside year-round

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Hearty tennis quartet from Hudson play outside year-round
A section of snow fence allows Bill Percuoco, Jack Pimentel, Rocky Zina and Mike Barberio (not pictured) to play tennis year-round on Riverside Courts. (Photo/Bill Gilman)

HUDSON – Those who are passionate about the sport of tennis love to play year-round. They play outdoors from spring through the fall and once the air gets frosty, they shift to indoor courts.

Unless you happen to be part of a Hudson quartet that eschews the confines of indoor courts and gathers regularly at Riverside Courts to play outdoors the entire.

“As long as there isn’t snow covering the courts, we’ll be out there,” explained Mike Barberio. “If it’s cold, that’s OK.”

Barberio’s playing partners are Jack Pimentel, Rocky Zina and Bill Percuoco. All enjoy a lifelong love affair with tennis, either as a competitive player, coach or weekend warrior.

Pimentel, Zina and Percuoco are certified Hudson “townies” and have known each other for decades. Barberio carries the label of “new guy,” having moved to town in 2008 and joined the tennis group six years ago.

Zina coached the Hudson High School boys’ tennis team for 20 years, until his retirement four years ago.

The men have met regularly to play tennis for several years. At one point, the group also included Dana Frye, of Ashland; Brad McCullough, of Hudson; and Rowel Ramos, of Marlborough. 

It was just over two years ago they decided to keep playing outdoors throughout the winter. 

“It started with COVID because we couldn’t go inside and then we had to wear masks,” said Pimentel.

Hearty tennis quartet from Hudson play outside year-round
From left, Jack Pimentel, Mike Barberio, Rocky Zina and Bill Percuoco erect a snow fence in order to play on the Riverside Courts during the winter. Photo/Bill Gilman

“Normally, we would transition from outdoor tennis to going indoor,” said Percuoco. “But when COVID came and we weren’t able to go indoors, we decided to try playing outside.”

Thus was born a new tradition.

Conditions are not always pleasant, with temperatures often below freezing. Their “record” is 15 degrees with a windchill of minus -10 on a January day in 2021.

The men play doubles matches and the competition is friendly, though good-natured barbs are volleyed across the net as frequently as dropshots. 

As residents are aware, the Hudson Parks Department removes the nets from the tennis courts in November and reinstalls them in April. On the surface, this would seem to cause a problem for people wanting to play in the intervening months. But necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention.

“Jack worked for a local auto dealership and he had this banner, and we just decided we’d try it out and run it across [the court],” said Percuoco. “That was our first year, at the end of 2020.”

The banner, really just a rope with flags on it, only lasted one season, as the quartet graduated to a “snow fence,” which has more of the look and flexibility of an actual tennis net. Each time they gather to play, the men use rope to connect the fencing to the net posts on each side of the court. It all takes about 5-10 minutes, and they are good to go.

“It’s amazing. It’s the right size and just the right proportion for a tennis net,” said Barberio.

So far, the men have been able to play about a dozen times since the nets came down in November. The relatively mild temperatures and lack of snow have helped.

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