Gifts for a Tennis Obsessed Family
Tennis can be a family affair. The grandparents might have been the original tennis enthusiasts, but now the parents are playing with their children and grandchildren. As a result, there are plenty of tennis lovers around who would be grateful for some new tennis-related equipment.
As another holiday season approaches, we start our annual scramble for gifts for loved ones. For some, this is when our time on the tennis court starts to dwindle due to winter weather, but that does not mean the tennis obsession stops. Here are a few gift ideas that go beyond the typical tennis apparel and accessories.
There are three recent innovations that are a must for the avid tennis lover, especially advanced players: Topspin Pro, NormaTec, and the Slinger Bag.
If you feel like a coach has ever told you to “brush the ball” too much or you just can’t do it, the Topspin Pro is for you. Set up as a vertical nylon screen surrounding a tennis ball on a spring, the Topspin Pro helps players develop the muscle memory necessary to correctly hit topspin forehands and backhands. Easy to assemble and set up in a living room or garage, you simply hit the attached ball by sliding your racket along the screen. Continue the repetitive process, and you will be whipping the ball like Nadal in no time!
I’m sure all of us have been in a position where we finished playing a long three-setter or back-to-back matches in a day, and it feels like the recovery time is way too long; NormaTec can help speed up that process. These compression boots zip up over your legs and pump different levels of pressure to help relieve possible injuries or strains to the foot, knees, and thighs. The best results come when Normatec is used daily from 45 minutes to an hour, allowing blood flow to increase through your legs and prevent the buildup of lactic acid (literally the worst pain ever).
This is just an opinion, but the Slinger Bag is one of the coolest tennis innovations in the past 15 years. The Slinger Bag is a tennis bag that features a ball machine and also carries your racquets, shoes, and over one hundred tennis balls.
Firing balls at speeds up to 45 miles per hour, this bag will give you the most bang for your buck compared to other ball machines and tennis bags in general. The only downside to the Slinger bag may be the price. The bag itself will run you a little over $900, but Slinger does have a few package deals that will knock the price down $200 or so. Though it is expensive, it is hard to find another product that can compete with it tennis-wise this holiday season.
Tennis ReadsWho does not like a good book? When it is cold outside or raining, instead of binge-watching a show on Netflix, gift someone a tennis book to read. Here are a few best-sellers:
Rafa – by Rafael Nadal and John Carlin: This autobiography published in 2011 explores Nadal’s secrets of the game, the inspirational story behind his success and his humble beginnings in Mallorca, Spain. Considering this is around when Nadal was first being dubbed “the King of Clay,” it is very enlightening to see the breakdown of Rafa the tennis champion versus Rafa the human being.
Days of Grace – by Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersad: The late tennis champion started writing this story as an autobiography but passed before it was published. “Days of Grace” shows how Ashe went from a young junior in Virginia to Grand slam champion to social activist and an AIDS victim. This is an inspiring story of a world class athlete who experienced difficulties on and off the tennis court.
Winning Ugly – by Brad Gilbert and Steve Jamison: The younger generation of tennis players know Brad Gilbert from being a color commentator on ESPN during several tennis tournaments throughout the year, but what many of them do not know is that he was once ranked No. 4 in the world, an Olympic bronze medalist and coached Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick to grand slam title victories. In this book, Gilbert shares his secret tricks and tips to help both recreational and professional players improve their game as well as show readers how to beat better players without playing better tennis.
Open- by Andre Agassi: Agassi is the last American man to win the career grand slam and one of only two men who have the Golden Slam – winning each of the four grand slam titles and an Olympic gold medal. (the other slam holder is no other than Nadal) This autobiography sees Agassi discuss his early success, an uncomfortable relationship with fame, failed relationships and his philanthropy work after retiring from tennis. For someone who was known for having highs and lows in their career, it is great to hear it from the individual themselves.
The Inner Game of Tennis – by W. Timothy Gallwey: This book is a must have for any tennis player. Not only does Gallwey present invaluable teachings for improving your performance on the tennis court but his approach to sports psychology can be used for almost any activity in life. Three of the themes that the books focuses on are: overcoming nervousness, finding a place of relaxed concentration and building the best skills to practice smart.
What do we do when we are not playing tennis? We watch it! Catching some of the televised tournaments year-round has become a bit more difficult than in the past. Networks such as CBS and NBC do not own exclusive broadcast rights to particular tournaments anymore. If you or a fellow tennis lover are looking to catch tennis on TV at almost anytime, your best bets will be Tennis Channel Plus and ESPN+.
Tennis Channel Plus is a standalone streaming service that gives you access to live and on-demand tennis matches. Unlike the actual Tennis Channel, you do not need to have a cable provider to access Tennis Channel Plus. At $109.99 a year, you can catch replays of matches that may have been on other networks and, most importantly, watch your favorite players compete at smaller tournaments.
ESPN+ comes in handy during grand slam season. Subscribers can watch the US Open, Wimbledon, and Australian Open live and on demand during the tournaments’ two-week periods. Maybe the best commodity of ESPN + is seeing matches on extra courts that the main networks would not normally televise. For the cost of $9.99 a month or a $99.99 payment for the year, you can access three of the four grand slams at all times.
Also, in this section, we will include magazine subscriptions. Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News may have a few feature articles from time to time on tennis, but not the entire publication. In the past, an annual USTA membership would also earn you a subscription to Tennis Magazine; after a 57-year run, however, the final print issue of Tennis will be its November/December 2022 edition. If you are still looking for a magazine for your tennis enthusiast, consider a subscription to Racquet Magazine. Launched in the Summer of 2016, Racquet Magazine celebrates the art, ideas, style, and culture surrounding tennis.
Tennis BagsThis may seem like the most obvious gift to give a tennis player but depending on how often you play or your skill level, different bags cater to different people. For the casual recreational player, the Wilson Tour Ultra Backpack Bag holds two racquets with zippers that stay in place while on the go. The backpack has padded adjustable straps and a vented pocket intended for shoes or sweaty clothes.
For the professional player (whether in your mind or actuality), the Babolat Pure Series 12 Pack Tennis bag has become the go-to now. The bag features two compartments that have Isothermal Protection that can hold up to five racquets. The bag’s middle compartment is just as large as the other two and can also carry up to five racquets. A feature that has become quite common in tennis bags, but the Babolat Pure Series 12 also contains a front ventilated pocket for shoes or clothes and grab handles at the bottom and middle of the bag.
But the most innovative out of all bags out now is the ADV Jet Pack tennis bag. Able to hold up to six racquets, the ADV Jet Pack has a weatherproof military-grade Korda nylon outer shell to keep all of your gear safe. Where most bags have a removable shoe compartment, the Jet Pack has an interior compartment lining in a mesh door for more main compartment space. Another feature that I have not seen in any tennis bag is the ability to hang the tennis bag up on a fence with an outer hook, stand it up vertically (it doesn’t fall. I’ve tried!), and how can I forget the built-in cooler. While Jet Pack is unavailable for the holiday 2022 season, v2.0 pre-orders are now open, and the new bag will arrive to your loved one in the Spring.
Now for lessons, there are a few options
For 1:1 or group coaching options, consider purchasing a gift card at your local tennis center or club. Should that not be an option, visit sites like PlayYourCourt.com, which allows patrons to create a custom profile based on preferred location and skills. This site will match your gift receiver with top-rated coaches near local tennis courts of their choosing. Players can then decide how many lessons they would like to pre-purchase with their selected pro and let the hitting begin. Note that the link above is an affiliate link with a built-in discount.
Meike Babel, a former top 30 player in the world, offers a virtual tennis stroke analysis. Though the name would suggest otherwise, the experience is pretty seamless. All you or your tennis enthusiast need to do is record your groundstroke with a camera phone and send it to Meike; she’ll then work on your stroke frame by frame and focus on areas of improvement, all within 72 hours for $65. Kind of hard to beat virtual coaching from a former WTA-ranked player as a gift.
Know someone who could not make it to the US Open this year or just loves Grand Slams? Consider getting them something from their favorite tournament. Although the average professional tennis tournament lasts only a week, with grand slams being two — many tournaments have online shops that sell to the general public year-round.
Tournament Branded Gifts
For example, a nice stocking stuffer would be a towel from Wimbledon, or if someone is ready for the spring already, Roland Garros has garden furniture that can be shipped straight to you.
Check out some of these online shops below:
Gift CardsWhile admittedly, gift cards seem generic, hear me out. There are two main categories I’d recommend and prefer a gift card for — stocking stuffers and tennis lessons.
When it comes to small tennis gear you can fit in a felted ornate boot, the options are endless. If you’re like any of my friends, you’re particular about what grips, wristbands, and even dampeners you use — expect no less from your tennis-loving family members and go for a gift card. Shop the sites linked above or check out a few businesses I enjoy.
Larger online retailers:
Boutique, smaller brands:
There is nothing better than a change of scenery from your normal tennis environment. Gifting someone a tennis vacation is a great way to remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of daily life and learn a thing or two along the way. The following are some of the best places to visit if you want to take a break from your routine. These three popular destinations may not be on every “Top 10 list,” but they offer tennis clinics, tennis lessons, and other sports-related activities for all levels of play:
Known as “Tennis Paradise” thanks to the Indian Wells tournament, Palm Springs is located in the Coachella Valley of Southern California and has access to the largest contiguous piece of undeveloped land in the area. The city has become a popular resort destination, with world-class golfing and spa facilities. The Palm Beach Tennis Club and Indian Wells Tennis Gardens neighbor one another but offer spectacular desert and mountain views and several courts to practice your tennis.
Hilton Head Island
This island in South Carolina offers some of the best beaches in the country as well as beautiful golf courses, restaurants, and shopping opportunities within walking distance from each other. Palmetto Dunes is the premier tennis resort on the island. With 19 clay courts, four of which are lighted for night play, visitors will not have any trouble finding activities and instructional programs that run all year.
There may not be any tennis courts on-site at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, but there are several courts within a two-mile radius that make up for it. The Biltmore Estate is one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in the country. It is a favorite of celebrities and famous athletes, as well as tourists looking to experience luxury like never before. The Biltmore is considered a must-visit due to its size and architecture, but keeping tennis in mind, Aston Park Tennis Center has a dozen lighted courts open to the public. The Asheville Racquet Club is also next door with group fitness classes, restorative spa services, and industry-leading tennis instruction.
A long read indeed, but maybe just long enough to get your creative juices going for gift-giving this year!
🎾 James Pressley, Staff Writer