Tennis is a hard sport. Not only is it exhausting because of the constant movement, it requires quick reflexes and plenty of precision. It’s mentally-demanding, too, requiring you to stay focused at all times. Because it’s so challenging, finding small successes can feel very rewarding, whether it be hitting a perfect slice or closing a tough match in the local courts.
The popularity of tennis has grown exponentially over the years, with more and more people showing keen interest in the sport. It’s a pretty accessible sport, after all, requiring just a net, a ball, and a pair of rackets to play, all while providing excellent cardiovascular exercise with all the movement it entails. Plus, it’s something you can practice on your own using the growing number of tennis aids and gadgets out there, allowing you to work on your game without having to pay for coaching each time out.
Like many sports, one of the best ways to improve your overall tennis game is to work on individual skills. From movements and postures to grips and strokes, each incremental improvement can do a lot to build up your performance come game time. Fortunately, improving on these individual skills is one area tennis aids and gadgets excel in, allowing you to work on specific aspects of your game with nothing but a small investment in equipment and a whole load of time.
These are the best tennis aids and gadgets to help you with your game.
Oncourt Offcourt Serving Sock
Many people say the serve is the most important shot in tennis. It makes sense. Not only does the serve take up around 40 percent of shots in a singles match, which means you’re going to do it a lot, being able to carry out a good serve also puts you in an attacking rather than defensive position. Suffice to say, you want to work on your serve if you want to get better at the game.
The serving sock is a simple-looking training tool that’s designed to improve the rhythm and fluidity of your serves. It’s an odd-looking tool, basically consisting of a long sock with three tennis balls inside it and the sock opening sealed inside a racket-style grip. To use, simply grab it by the grip and make the full service motion, making sure you can go through the steps without the sock hitting you at any point. If it does hit you, then it means you need to adjust and correct accordingly. The idea is to do the motion over and over to build up the correct rhythm in your muscle memory, which will enable you to generate more spin and power in your serves come game time.
If you’ve ever worked with a tennis coach, chances are, you’ve heard them say “Bend you knees” a few times too many. It’s an important part of the playing stance in tennis, after all, while also being something newer players frequently forget. These resistance bands mount to your ankle and waist to force you into bending the knees, putting you in a strong position to make a play at all times. It comes with three sets of resistance bands, so you can switch to a higher resistance level once you get too used to the lower set.
Launch this iPhone app and put your phone somewhere on the back of the court, either mounting it on the back fence or putting it on a tripod. From there, just follow instructions to line it up correctly, set it record, and start your game. The app will record your complete match in real time, automatically deleting any dead time, so you’re left with a full video of the full match action, which the app’s AI overlays with detailed stats for each of your shots. It can give detailed performance stats for all key metrics, which, when combined with the video, make for an incredible tool for learning from every match you play.
Used by many coaches and athletes alike, this specialty device is strictly for working on your topspin and, if you’ve been playing tennis for a bit, you absolutely realize how important it is to get a good, consistent topspin on your strokes, as it allows you to hit the ball hard while keeping it in the court. The device looks simple enough, consisting of a tripod holding an arm with a ball on it. The idea is to hit the ball using the proper swing path (upwards and forwards) to brush the ball with your racket strings and generate topspin on your groundstrokes. As soon as you hit it, the ball flies backwards, but the arm puts it back in place ready for another swing. You can adjust the tension on the ball, by the way, which will make it to bounce higher or lower, depending on which way you go, while screens at the top and bottom are designed to guide you at the correct angle, as you can slide your racket across the screens after hitting the ball to help commit the movement to your muscle memory.
Because of its minimal footprint and limited movement area (the ball just moves a few inches back and returns to the front), this training aid can be used practically anywhere with a little of bit of space to let you work your stroke. The whole thing can collapse into a compact pouch, too, and requires just two minutes to assemble, allowing you to take this to parks, courts, and anywhere else you want to put some practice time in.
This sensor attaches to the end of your tennis racket using any of the included mounts (it comes with three types), allowing it to monitor each and every swing you make. With the help of the companion app, the device can capture over 1,000 data points per second, which it uses to track key performance metrics such as stroke type, ball speed, ball spin, sweet spot proximity, and more. According to the outfit, it can show exactly where the ball makes contact with the racket in every stroke, with an accuracy and detail that you can’t even get from video, making it the perfect way to track every game you play. It even records every rally made and generates individual clips for each shot, so you can easily analyze important sequences in-game, all while providing a performance report that highlights areas where you will need to improve.
We’ve seen a number of aids designed to help train players in hitting a racket’s sweet spot. Chances are, you’ll like one of them more than the others. For us, this tennis racket, which pairs a standard-size handle and throat with a much smaller head, offers the ideal design. With the smaller head, you’re forced to use nothing but the racket’s sweet spot at all times, while the rest of the racket feels the same. Some players prefer using one of those fabric sleeves that cover every part of the head but the sweet spot, although we’ve found removing that area entirely gives us the best results, as far as controlling the racket to hit the ball right on the money.
One of the main reasons why tennis is so mentally draining is the fact that you can never take your eyes off the ball. The position and movement of the ball determines not just where you reposition on the court, but the swing path your racket needs to take in order to return it. This contraption is designed to train your eyes to recognize and see the ball in the final three feet before it comes in contact with your racket, giving you enough time to line up the swing properly to hit the sweet spot.
The ball on this trainer is held on a very flexible neck that puts it in a back and forth motion as soon as you hit it, so you’ll have to time when the ball is in your swing line to put it contact with the racket with each succeeding stroke. And yes, it’s compact enough to use indoors, making it a great practice aid for working on your stroke, timing, spacing, footwork, and balance.
There are plenty of tennis ball machines out there that will chuck out tennis balls one after the other, so you can simulate playing with someone else on the other side of the court. Of all we’ve seen, there’s nothing quite like the Slinger, which puts the tennis ball machine in a rolling luggage form factor, allowing you to fill it up at home, throw it in the boot of the car, and take it out once you get to courts. And yes, it’s a pretty capable on the job, delivering balls with a good topspin, making it feel like you’re practicing with a somewhat skilled player. Sadly, the topspin is not adjustable, so you can’t make it easier for novices, although you can tweak the ball speed (10 to 45 mph), launch angle (10 to 40 degrees), and frequency (two to seven seconds) to your exact liking.
Aside from holding up to 144 balls, the bag also has room to fit your rackets, footwear, clothing, and any other gear you bring to the courts, making it doubly useful. On top of all that, it’s much more economically-priced compared to traditional tennis ball machines, leaving it accessible to most players.