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Even in the depths of winter, a Bethany Beach tennis resort holds court.

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2005; Page C02

Driving through the Sea Colony Resort at Bethany Beach, Del., I began to feel like I was in some kind of tennis-themed episode of "The Twilight Zone."

Granted, I had come to the beach hoping to play a lot of tennis. But I had no idea the game would take over the whole wintry weekend. There I was, looking for indoor courts on a Saturday and I noticed that the clusters of condos had names like Center Court, Love Court and Round Robin Way.

Ron Woltz of Ocean View, Del., combs the winter beach. (Art Baltrotsky For The Washington Post)

I found the tennis center and hit with my 15-year-old son, Holt, for an hour and a half. For dinner we ate at Bethany Blues, which offered blackened tuna served with a lobster cream sauce, and as we drove back to our room, the moon rose over the Atlantic Ocean like -- a fuzzy white ball.

Everything pointed to tennis.

Sea Colony bills itself as a beach and tennis community. The tennis center, just a few blocks from the beach, is open year-round. There are four indoor courts and 30 outdoor -- 12 are clay. In the high season, more than two dozen teaching pros -- led by 15-year veteran Dave Marshall -- roam the land. During the summer there are weekly clinics, junior clinics, round-robin tournaments, a junior academy and other tennis-oriented goings-on. In the winter, Marshall runs weekend mini-camps. Private lessons are available anytime.

Folks staying at Sea Colony can pretty much play as much tennis as they can stomach. You can call ahead for a game and Marshall or one of his assistants will arrange for you to play with someone about your speed. My singles match was set for 9 o'clock on a bright and brrr-ishly cold Sunday morning.

I showed up an hour early and caught the end of a weekend mini-camp for women. The mini-campers were mostly United States Tennis Association league players from the Washington area. Twenty or so students were spread out on three courts practicing drop shots. Six more women arrived late. "Just getting in?" Marshall teased. They laughed, told Marshall a little about their tame nightlife adventures and took the court.

Six pros and Marshall shuttled from player to player. "You've got to learn to drop the drop," Marshall said. In other words, when someone hits a drop shot that falls just across the net, you should respond in kind. He and other teachers placed balls on the net cords and let them fall. The women lunged forward, tapped the balls with rackets and tried over and over to drop the drop.

Then Marshall cranked up a CD player -- Frank Sinatra crooned "The Way You Look Tonight" and the Temptations sang "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" -- and the women played a practice game called "drop shot mambo" in which they hit little dinkers to each other in rotation.

When the clinic was over, Marshall gave out T-shirts and other prizes.

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