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Club Spotlight: Mountainside Racquet Club Redesigns Itself With An Eye Towards Tennis' Future

Steve Ondish (C), G.M. Zef Lekaj (2nd from L)with TSR Quacey Balleste and NJ Board Members
MRC Highway Sign
MRC Clay Courts
MRC Lobby
MRC Lobby
MRC Pro Shop and Stringer
RJ Fresen Forehand
RJ Fresen Serve
MRC Firness Room
MRC Lobby



Mountainside, NJ - Nestled on a hilly portion of Route 22 East in Mountainside, NJ, just a few miles from Manhattan, sits a tennis gem.

Mountainside Racquet Club (formerly Mountainside IndoorTennis Club) is an impressive 8 court tennis center that offers comprehensive programs for both youths and adults.


Steve Ondish,who is Managing Partner and Director of Tennis (pictured center in top photo, along with General Manager Zef Lekaj 2nd from left, and from left to right: Board Member Ron Thomas, TSR Quacey Balleste, NJ Region President Lou Wiggs and Board Members Ken Goldsmith and Neil Debnath), purchased the club in October of 2015 along with his childhood tennis friend Steve Kantor, after spending a number of years searching for a club. Steve says, “I grew up in Cranford, and played here when I was a kid. It was centrally located and easy to get to, so a lot of us played here. The club originally opened in 1974. I was in the business of sport-specific fitness, and had also taught tennis for over 30 years, and I always wanted to own a tennis club so that I could combine tennis and fitness in one location.”


However, finding an indoor tennis club that was available for sale proved to be a difficult task.  Steve was finally rewarded and got a break when he learned that the owners of MITC were looking to sell the club to someone who knew the business and would preserve the facility and continue to promote it as a tennis club. “I ended up purchasing the club I grew up playing at, and it is literally less than a mile from where I live.” Talk about serendipity!


Steve says the Township of Mountainside has been very supportive of his improvement and expansion projects, especially with regard to his most ambitious one so far – the addition of two indoor red clay courts!“ It took a lot of planning, work and money to get this project done – conceptual drawings, clearing the necessary land, as well as the cooperation of the Township for permits, approvals etc., but we think it was well worth the effort.”


MRC is the only tennis facility on the East Coast that has indoor red clay courts. “We’re very happy and excited to be able to offer these courts to players in the community – these are hybrid Har-Tru Hydro courts with imported red clay as the playing surface. This clay is actual 100 year-old crushed red brick tile imported from Italy, and is the same surface used in a lot of the European clay court tournaments that you see on television.”


Unlike standard clay courts that typically require periodic surface watering, these courts were constructed using Har-Tru’s Hydro Irrigation System, which waters the clay from underneath, thus eliminating the need for surface watering, and maintains the proper moisture for the playing surface.  “The courts were originally conceived back in January and were just finished a few weeks ago, so they’re still settling in and are being maintained on a daily basis. It’s exciting for me to come to work every morning and work on them”, Steve said with a smile. 


Why clay courts?


“A number of reasons, “ Steve explained. “Clay teaches young players how to construct points and develop patience, focus and concentration. It’s also easier on their bodies, as they play every day. For seniors it’s easier on the joints, and enables them to play longer without the pain and discomfort associated with playing on a hard court. In addition, since these are indoor clay courts, the air inside the structure is much cooler during the day, which is great during the heat of the summer months, compared to the heat generated by hard courts. We even installed LED lighting so as not to add any heat to the facility.”


MRC is also building out robust USTA programs. “We started USTA programs the moment we opened the club - we have an extensive 10 and Under program, a USTA Adult League program, a Tournament program – and are interested in promoting every program that USTA offers” says Steve.  He was a ranked junior player and believes in the values of  USTA programs.


MRC has an excellent Youth program that has produced a number of top-ranked young players – like Jackie Wu, a NJ State Champion and now number one for Vanderbilt University; Michele Yuan, a NJ State Champion; Mark Krupkin, the number one fifth grader in NJ who is ranked 13th nationally for fifth graders, and RJ Fresen (pictured), a very talented high school player who is the son of former WTA top player Kathy Horvath, who was the youngest player at the 1974 US Open (14 years, 5 days), and the only player to defeat Martina Navratilova during the 1983 season, beating her at the French Open that year.


Asked what his plans are for the future, Steve says “We are currently recruiting like-minded pros who want to help us create the premier junior tennis academy in the Northeast. Tennis is my passion and I want to give other young people the fabulous opportunities I had growing up.”


If Steve’s enthusiasm and commitment are any indication, MRC will contribute in a big way to the long term growth of tennis in the New Jersey/New York metropolitan area and USTA Eastern.  We wish him every success!


Red clay, anyone?


For more information please contact MRC at 908.232.0310, or visit their website at


Article: Ron Thomas

Photos: Tyler Moore and Ron Thomas