By Matt Locke
I’ve always liked the phrase “putting in work” when it comes to tennis. To me, improving my game is similar to learning a craft or trade. And like any good craftsman, you have to make sure you have the right tools for the job. Obviously the big one would be the racquet. It all starts there so you have to make sure you have the right one. Tennis Express offers a fantastic demo program that can be found here. Once you have your racquet picked out, now you need somewhere to store it! There are plenty of options when it comes to bags. From backpacks and tote style bags to 15 packs and bags with wheels and legs, the choices are endless. With the big stuff out of the way, it’s top ten list time. Here is the Top Ten Items You Need to Have in Your Bag:
Let’s face it, if you’re not sweating, you’re not trying. While I keep some basic towels handy to wipe my hands, dry my grip, etc; there has also been a lot of innovation in sport towels in recent years (that is just a weird sentence to write). Towels like the Mission Athletecare Enduracool towel can cool when wet, cooling your body down and lasting for 2 hrs at a time. Have a work meeting that you are already late to when you get off the court? No big deal because Fila has you covered with their Cool Body Sport Towel. These things have Aloe, T-Tree Oil and Menthol to clean you off and cool you down. Towels are a vital tool for keeping you and your equipment dry and comfortable on court and off.
You don’t really want that $200 racquet investment to fly out of your hands on a crucial point due to a lack of grip and become a crumpled mass of graphite do you? Overgrips can typically be lumped into 2 main categories: tacky and dry/absorbent. A personal favorite of mine is Yonex Super Grap. It has a good amount of tack without being overly sticky and has solid durability. If you need a dry, absorbent grip the first name in that department has to be Tourna Grip. It stays dry exceptionally well and doesn’t slip around on your handle. Ultimately overgrips are a matter of preference so try a few and find the right one for you!
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve gone out to play a match and everybody ends up looking at each other wondering who brought the balls. Avoid that awkward situation and always keep a spare can in your bag. Court surface, altitude and durability are all factors when considering the right ball. For a great list of balls by the case visit here.
It’s late in the third set and your legs feel like spaghetti noodles. Sound familiar? Your body needs a steady source of fuel to compete at its peak. There are lots of options that provide different mixes of nutrients to keep your body primed. You can also choose from bars, drinks, chews and gels. An option I’ve used frequently that also just happens to taste pretty good are Clif Bars. There will never be a substitute for a proper pre-match meal, but keeping something extra in your bag can help you push through a long match or training session when you need it the most.
5. Hats and Visors
I freely admit I have more than my share of bad hair days. Couple that with a strong desire to keep the sun and sweat out of my eyes and now you know why I have hats/visors on this list. I am partial to the Nike FeatherLite Caps! For guys that really want to throw their opponents for a loop, I recommend rocking something from the Hello Kitty collection. Never underestimate the head games possible with a pink hat covered in adorable cartoon kitten faces!
6. Vibration Dampeners
Dampeners are a matter of personal preference. Now most of the time, these should be on your racquet. However on the occasional mishit (I know, nobody ever hits those) these can end up a couple states away. If you enjoy dampeners you’ll have no shortage of choices. Worm, square, adjustable, cartoon and more styles can all be found here. Get an assortment and change them out to match your mood, racquet or outfit.
7. Water Bottles
Hydration is something that cannot be overstated. If you don’t drink enough during play, you are dooming yourself to reduced performance and sore muscles. Hydroflask makes some great wide mouth sport bottles that come in various sizes and feature premium technologies to help keep your drink cool for up to 24 hrs. It doesn’t make you tough to go without water during play; it makes you weak (literally). Be smart, stock up on bottles and bring plenty of fluids to the court.
8. Sneaker Balls
Some of you reading this are probably wondering what in world I am talking about. Remember previously when I mentioned I try to avoid having my bag smell like a locker room? Well these babies are the secret weapon. New Balance Sneaker Balls are designed to simply be twisted and dropped into your bag, shoes, locker or anywhere that might smell “unpleasant.” Not only will they help with the smell, they just might help you get a bit more life out of your bag before it gets to the point of no return in the smell department.
I am going to throw out an over-share warning here. I have hot feet. And no I do not mean that in the good way. My feet sweat a lot during play and can lead to just a miserable feeling in my shoes if I don’t change socks. Cushion, breathability and construction are all factors when looking for a sock that performs well for you. Another factor to consider is length. Crew socks seem to be the “in” thing these days and I have my fair share. For a wide variety of choices, be sure to visit the Tennis Express Socks page.
The number of players who wear sunglasses on the court on the pro tour is insanely low. Apparently they have all developed retinas of steel. As for me, I have had my share of tossing the ball up only to turn away in agony and shield my eyes. A great option is the line of sunglasses from Bolle. These use a lens technology called Competivision that dampens all colors except optic yellow and white. The result is that the ball and court lines pop out, letting you focus on what matters while still getting protection from harmful UVA/UVB rays. Remember, tennis is a craft. Be sure you hit the court with all the right tools. There is no shortage of accessories, clothes and equipment that can help boost your game and confidence.
You can find everything you need (and some things you didn’t know you did) at Tennis Express. Happy hitting!