With the summer fast approaching, tennis rackets are being dusted off, balls tested for bounce and courts checked for cracks. For those not fortunate enough to own memberships in private clubs, the yearly question is renewed: Where are the best places to play?

Just about anywhere in the Washington area.

Each region has its own outstanding public courts. The criteria used to rate local public courts were number of courts, condition, convenience and availability.

The places that arguably have the best courts in the area are the Rock Creek Tennis Center and Hains Point.

Rock Creek, the site of the Sovran Bank Tennis Classic, is located at 16th and Kennedy streets NW. The tennis center has approximately 30 courts available for public use. The court surfaces are split between clay and hard. The clay courts are lighted, the hard courts are not. The condition of the courts is excellent and reservations may be made by calling 722-5949.

One of the advantages of Hains Point is that it is near East Potomac Park, which houses a nine-hole golf course. It also is one of the finest tennis facilities around, with 24 courts -- 10 clay outdoors, 9 nine hard outdoors and 5 asphalt indoors. Reservations can be made for Hains Point courts by calling 554-5962.

In Maryland there are three regional parks that provide good facilities, all in Montgomery County.

Olney Manor Special Park at 16601 Georgia Ave. is specially designed as a sports park and has 18 courts. A little more remote than the two other Montgomery County parks, Olney is not overly crowded.

Like Hains Point, Olney also features a variety of sporting facilities. In the park, there is a fishing pond, baseball fields and basketball courts. An outdoor swimming pool is planned for the future.

The two other parks in Montgomery County are Wheaton Regional Park at the intersection of Arcola and Orebaugh avenues and Cabin John Regional Park on Westlake Drive between Tuckerman Lane and Democracy Boulevard.

Wheaton has 12 courts, but according to Harry Stenger, Montgomery County's supervisor of physical activities, it is the most used park in the county.

"It's more likely you will have to wait to get onto the courts," Stenger said.

Cabin John also has 12 courts and is moderately crowded.

Virginia also has a number of available tennis facilities. The best may be Lee District Park at 6500 Telegraph Rd. in Alexandria, which has six lighted courts and two practice courts. Four of the lighted courts are asphalt and two are grass.

Another good park is Nottoway Park at 9537 Courthouse Rd. in Vienna, which also has six lighted courts and two practice courts.

Among the other Virginia parks that have sufficient facilities: George Washington Community Park at 8426 Old Mount Vernon Rd. (four lighted courts), McLean Central Park at 1468 Dolley Madison Blvd. (three lighted courts) and Rutherford Park at 4710 Guinea Rd. (three courts).

Besides Rock Creek Tennis Center and Hains Point, there are a few other notable places to play within city limits. Fort Lincoln Park on Fort Lincoln Drive NE has eight courts and a hitting wall. Anacostia Park at 1800 Anacostia Drive NE has nine courts. Banneker Park at Ninth and Euclid streets NW has eight courts. The best place to play in Southeast is Garfield Park at Third and G streets.

Olney Manor Special Park, 16601 Georgia Ave., Olney.

Wheaton Regional Park, Arcola and Orebaugh Aves., Wheaton. WASHINGTON, D.C.

Hains Point, East Potomac Park.

Rock Creek Tennis Center, 16th St. NW near Military Rd. VIRGINIA

Lee District Park, 6500 Telegraph Rd., Alexandria.

Nottoway Park, 9537 Courthouse Rd., Vienna.