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?