Five tennis training aids worth checking out

Dax - Tennis training aids

I have said this a few times – tennis is a hard sport to learn.

In relative terms, Squash and badminton are easier for beginners. Getting to be good at any of these sports is a completely different matter. While solo drills are great for squash, hitting a tennis ball against a wall by yourself is less exciting. Keeping the focus on tennis, I decided to look around for training tools and aids that would help players – at the beginner and intermediate levels – to improve their game. Here are five that I came across that may be worth checking out.

The ServeMaster: The good thing about the Serve Master is that you do not have to be on a tennis court to use it.If you have ever had a coach who suggested that you stuff a long sock with a few tennis balls and use it as a tool to practice your serves, you may like this one. The tool is designed to simulate the swing of a serve and has a handle similar to that of a tennis racquet.  Available in three specifications, its length and weight are similar to that of a real tennis racquet. When swung the right way, it goes through the muscle movements involved in a tennis serve. The symmetrical design is intended to suit both right and left-handed players and the markings on the handle aid in perfecting the grip while using the tool. Tennis Flex lists the ServeMaster at $59.95.

Hit Zone: If this tool works like it is shown in the demo video, it could come in handy. The idea is that the Hit Zone machine expels a steady stream of air which keeps a tennis ball – or a lighter foam ball – floating in the air at a level from where you can hit it. Referred to as an air tee, the machine tees up the ball in the air to help you practice hitting it at the desired height. Moving the machine to the appropriate side will enable you to practice your strokes both on the forehand and the backhand. The downside I see with this equipment is that each ball has to be fed manually. The ability to feed a steady stream of balls on the air tee would have made this tool much more useful. It may be more effective in an indoor tennis court than an outdoor one where external elements like the wind may have an impact on its functionality. The machine has to be plugged into an electrical outlet which also may be a limitation in some outdoor courts. Amazon lists it at $179.99.

The Racket Bracket: I like the concept of the Racket Bracket. The idea of cocking the wrist does not come naturally to most beginners and some intermediate players. The Racket Bracket forces players to position themselves and cock their wrists to hit the ball effectively over the net. The goal is to ensure that the players move and position themselves in such a way that the contact with the ball is made at the right point and the right height. In a nutshell, the Racket Bracket prevents or limits the flexibility of your wrist forcing you to improve your footwork and hitting technique. I have half a mind to try this one since this could come in handy for squash as well. The Racket Bracket is listed online at $39.99.

The Net Checker: In simplistic terms, this comes down to two rods and a string. However, as a training tool – especially for coaches – there is certainly merit in the concept. Ever wonder how good players always hit the ball with consistent depth and weight? The Net Checker lets you adjust the rope to the desired height for the shot that you are working on. For example, you may want to practice hitting topspin shots over the rope while hitting slice shots under the rope. If you are the type of player who loses a lot of points by hitting the ball into the net, this product may come in handy as a training tool. First Strike Tennis lists the Net Checker at $44.95.

Pro Racket Plates: This one appears to be more of a weight training tool for racquet sports than anything else. The idea is to attach the Pro Racket Plates to an old racquet and go through shadow movements of all your core shots – serves, volleys, ground-strokes, etc. With eight plates in three different weights, you can build up your muscle memory through your practice swings. The weight of the plates forces the players to remember to keep the racquet head up and at the ready through the practice swings. Mansion Select lists Pro Racket Plates at $26.20.

At the end of the day tools and aids can only help you build on the skills that you already have. Nothing can beat a few lessons from a coach or a friend who knows the game well.

So there you have it. Are there other modestly priced tennis aids that should have made the list?

My Wimbledon dreams

It’s the perfect storm.

The Wimbledon tennis championship is into its final days; two Canadians are still in contention, and I am going to be in London!

Eugenie Bouchard has clinched her spot in the finals of the Wimbledon Women’s championship, a first ever in the open era. Milos Raonic, another Canadian, attempts to replicate Bouchard’s success on the men’s side by trying to win his semi-final match against Roger Federer, who has beaten him in his past four encounters. Federer, a seven-time championship winner, has been vulnerable lately.

A Raonic win is not inconceivable. Canadian tennis is indeed on the upswing.

So it felt logical that I look for tickets to the Wimbledon finals.

I had no illusions. Tickets would not come cheap if they were available at all. I had missed the ballot. I had no plans to camp outside Wimbledon grounds to be part of the “queue” in hopes of getting a ticket on the day of the game.

Wimbledon Tickets - last minute prices

That left me with Ticket master.

What the heck! It’s not every day that I can boast of having been to the centre court on Wimbledon.

Making sure that I was not redirected to a scalper’s site, I explored my options, credit card at the ready. I knew that I had to move quickly to grab two of the remaining eight seats. I clicked “buy” to see the price of the tickets. I did a double take! £7,810 for two tickets? Quick mental math told me that is over $13,000 in US dollars.

Clearly, above my snack bracket!

As I pondered my back up plan, it occurred to me that England has not had a lot to cheer about lately. Early exit from the FIFA World Cup and Andy Murray’s defeat at Wimbledon quarter-finals have not helped. Perhaps it’s time for the Brits to pick their next favourites – the Canadians.

After all, we still pledge our allegiance to the Queen!

Surfing the web for a tennis-friendly sports bar in London….

Canadian tennis is on the upswing; what about squash?

The highest world ranking ever achieved by a Canadian tennis player is No. 9. The highest world ranking achieved by a Canadian squash player is No. 1. Canadian tennis is on the upswing while Canadian squash has some work to do. Eugenie Bouchard - Canadian tennis

For the first time in Canadian tennis history, two Canadians reached the quarter-finals of a tennis grand slam tournament – the 2014 French Open. As Milos Raonic went down fighting against the second seeded Novak Djokovic and Eugenie Bouchard clawed her way past Spain’s Suarez Navarro to reach her second consecutive grand slam semi-final, an obvious question comes to mind – Can a Canadian win a tennis grand slam title?

It is possible. A Canadian tennis grand slam champion is no longer a pipe dream!

So what is happening in tennis that is not happening in Canadian squash?

Eugenie Bouchard currently ranked twelfth in the world and Milos Raonic, ranked ninth, have helped revive interest in Canadian tennis that has been missing for a while. Squash has no equivalent. The PSA rankings show Shawn Delierre, the highest ranked Canadian squash player, sitting at No. 74 while Samantha Cornett, ranked at No.30 on WSA’s list, is the highest ranked female squash player from Canada.

Not ideal!

Historically speaking, Daniel Nestor was the only one getting any limelight among Canadian tennis fans. Despite eighty-five career titles and $11 million in earnings, Nestor is not exactly what you would call a household name. But, now we have fresh blood; the game is back on track.

Clearly, it has to do with money.

The top ranked squash player in the world – Nick Matthew – earned just over $300,000 in 2013. The ninety second ranked tennis player Michael Russell made over $200,000 during the same period taking his career earnings to over $2 Million. Unfortunately, squash players trying to make a living playing the sport have to content with the fact that they may need a real job to support themselves past their competing days.

Melanie Jans, shown in the video below, is a perfect example! Melanie who was ranked as high as No.25 in the world, joined Club Meadowvale as the head squash pro in 2012 .

So, can the love of the game alone get Canadian squash back to its glory days?