Tennis Quest Nets 50th Court in LA



November 21, 2022

Mark Gozonsky, a self-proclaimed average tennis player, has a unique goal: to play tennis on every public court in Los Angeles – and get there exclusively by taking public transit or riding his bike.

The newly retired high school English teacher recently netted his fiftieth court, a milestone on the way to the roughly 400 in LA County.  The quest began in August at the courts near the merry-go-round in Griffith Park, against an opponent in between assistant-directing gigs. 

Gozonsky finds partners on Facebook’s “Tennis Players in LA” page, by using the “PlayYourCourt” app, or by just showing up.  This was his approach at his fiftieth court, Almansor Park in Alhambra, where he applied his 20 years of playing pick-up tennis in LA to fit in nicely with the regulars and take his 6-0 drubbing philosophically.  “I got to ride the 76 through all of East Los Angeles,” he reflects.  “That was my first time ever in El Sereno.”

It is not about winning or losing for Gozonsky.  It is not even entirely about tennis.  “It’s about being here for Los Angeles in our city’s time of need,” he says.  For example, he’s earbud-free on public transit, the better to look out the window at LA’s drought-stricken sprawl and pay unobtrusive attention to fellow riders.  When asked, he offers directions to folks who are lost. 

He objects to the conventional wisdom that Los Angeles has terrible public transit and no one rides it.  He credits the system for acquainting him with tennis partners originally from places ranging from Jordan to Siberia, and for inexpensively taking him as far north as Heritage Park in Valencia and as far south as Charles Wilson Park in Torrance — his favorite to date, because in addition to tennis and dedicated pickleball courts, it has both a hockey rink and a batting cage.

On the court, Gozonsky seeks to practice the flow-through approach advocated by the 1970s sports psychology classic, The Inner Game of Tennis.  “I’ve gotten better at hitting deeper,” Gozonsky reports, following through to note that his quest also involves not-going-gently-into-that-good-night.  “I’m 61 years old, and I’m down to play about three times a week.  If I have 350 more courts to go, that’s about two more years.  Will I be able to do it?  It’s like any other sport, you have to play the games to find out.”

He chronicles his adventures online at “Centro de Gozo,” which also includes notes on post-game tacos and other local delicacies.  His favorite thus far is Casita Tacos al Carbon in North Hollywood, where the onions and cilantro aligned to summon the spirit of Jonathan Gold, legendary itinerant LA food writer.

Gozonsky also sends a handwritten letter by mail to a friend or family member about each of his outings.  “It’ll all wind up going into my next book” – a projected epistolary non-fiction novel, according to Gozonsky, author of The Gift is to the Giver (Keppie Usage, 2022), a collection of essays about the mixed results of his trying to be a positive influence in the world.