So, you’ve decided to start playing tennis? Hopefully you have already got someone to play with, and have found a suitable place to play, but if not there should be plenty of local clubs keen to welcome you, with coaches ready to teach you the basics.
Tennis will offer an enjoyable challenge, help you to meet new friends, and keep you fit. To be ready to play, you will need some basic clothing and equipment. In this article, we will talk about what you should buy in preparation for your new hobby.
A racket is the most obvious item of equipment required for beginners, but you will also need suitable shoes and a supply of tennis balls. If you are going to be playing in warm conditions, or indoors, a towel will be essential for wiping away the sweat.
You will be much more comfortable, and will look the part, if you purchase tennis clothes, as opposed to generic sportswear.
A racket more than good enough to get you started should be obtainable for $50-100. To simplify the choice and get a competitive price, try Walmart. They will have a modest range of rackets, but there will be sufficient for you to find a good option.
If you get the chance, go to a store and hold a racket in your hand, just to get the feel of it and gauge the weight. There will be some very cheap rackets, in the $20-30 range, but these will have an aluminum frame, which is inferior to graphite.
If your budget is very low, one of these will do the job, but, if you can run to about $80, you can obtain a graphite racket from a major manufacturer like Head or Wilson.
In an ideal world, you would buy two identical rackets, as you can break a string when playing, potentially leaving you without a racket until you can find someone to restring it for you.
Tennis is played on a variety of different surfaces, and you should make sure that you buy a pair of shoes that will give you enough grip when you are racing enthusiastically around the court. There are specific shoes for hard (concrete) courts, clay courts, artificial grass, and grass.
Most beginners will start on hard courts, so in that case, hard court shoes are needed. These will have grooves in the soles, which will be made of a fairly durable but grippy compound, to prevent slipping and premature wear.
Clay court shoes look similar, but their soles are softer and they have more grooves. The type of shoe which works best on artificial grass is called an omni-court shoe. These have small pimples which prevent you from slipping on the sandy turf.
If you are fortunate enough to be playing on real grass, the specially-designed shoes you will need have an array of large pimples in the sole.
Having discussed the shoes you should wear, it is also vital to be aware of what is not suitable. Neither running shoes or general cross trainers will do the job. These shoes are not supportive enough for the kind of movements made in tennis, so they will leave you vulnerable to ankle injuries. Also, they rarely have non-marking soles: your new club will not be delighted if you leave black marks all over their nice courts!
Tennis balls need to be replaced after a couple of weeks of use. Don’t fall into the trap of using old balls for convenience, as these will have lost their bounce and most of the outer felt will have worn off. Another common error is to buy cheap unbranded balls which may well be bouncy for a while, but which offer no ‘feel’ and are not pleasant to play with.
The best solution is to look on a website like Amazon or Walmart to find some reasonable quality balls from a big-name manufacturer. As an example, Penn Championship balls are a good, solid choice, if a little on the quick side, and are available online for under $4 for a tube of three. Buy a few tubes to start with so that you are not tempted to use soft or worn-out balls.
If you live in a warm area, or play indoors, tennis will make you sweat. It is not pleasant trying to play with sweat in your eyes, so a towel is a very useful addition to your equipment. Take a fairly small towel to minimise weight, and make sure you remember to wash it regularly, to prevent your bag from becoming extremely unpleasant and smelly!
Some more exclusive clubs will specify that you must wear ‘recognized tennis clothing’ on the court. In public courts, you can normally wear what you like. Either way, it is still a good idea to buy some clothes which have been specifically designed for tennis.
These might be stretchy or loose-fitting, allowing you plenty of room to move and swing a racket, and will normally be designed to carry sweat away from your skin.
Amazon is one place to look for good value options. You will want to buy a few tops and a couple of pairs of shorts, or skorts with a ball pocket. The ball pocket is required because you will need to hold a second ball when it is your turn to serve, in case you miss your first attempt.
Several pairs of thick sports socks will also be needed, as these will wear out surprisingly quickly. For colder days, a hoodie and some jogging trousers or leggings, or a tracksuit, will be ideal for warming up. Consider also a cap or visor and some sunglasses for when the Sun is intense and perhaps at an awkward angle.
Try to get the right equipment if you can, as it will help you to enjoy the game. Shop around and it won’t break the bank.