You don't need the skills of a top-ranked tennis professional nor do you need to spend a fortune on high-dollar gear and apparel to enjoy a friendly game of tennis. But what you do need is access to a regulation court and the right equipment. To meet the need of all types of players, tennis manufacturers provide many options in racket, balls and clothing. By knowing your options, you'll be able to select the best equipment and apparel to complement and enhance your game.
Without a lined court and net, tennis can't be played. Lines define different areas of the court and designate the boundaries. While hard courts have painted lines and grass courts have chalked lines, clay courts must have canvas-like strips nailed in place. A meshed net divides the court in half and hangs from two side posts. The net must be 36 inches high in the middle and 42 inches high at the posts. A white center strap, attached to a hook embedded in the court, wraps around the middle of the net to hold it in place.
The most important piece of equipment is the racket, which must comply with the International Tennis Federation design rules. Manufacturers use a variety of materials, such as Kevlar, titanium, fiberglass, graphite and high-modulus graphite to make rackets. To meet the needs of all skill levels and physiques, rackets vary in length, weight, head and grip size, and flexibility. Adult rackets are typically 27 inches long, and smaller rackets are available for children. Rackets are made with three head sizes -- standard, midsize and oversize.
Tennis balls are equally important and must also comply with ITF specifications. Manufacturers make tennis balls for each type of playing surface -- hard-court, grass and clay -- and for high altitudes. Balls can be pressurized with an internal pressure between 10 and 12 psi or they can be pressureless. To make learning easier for children, manufacturers make low-compression and sponge balls, which provide a lower bounce and softer impact.
What to Wear
What you wear can be as simple as a cotton T-shirt and a pair of gym shorts. Or you may prefer more fashionable clothing made from fabrics designed to reflect the sun and wick perspiration away from your skin. It's helpful to wear clothing that allows you to move around the court with ease and with pockets to carry a spare ball. During colder months, dress in layers. As you heat up, you can remove clothing to allow for a full range of motion. If you belong to a club or play tournaments, you may have to comply with clothing guidelines and rules.
Tennis requires players to move around the court quickly, stop on a dime and change direction at the last second. Running shoes are not designed for this type of movement, and the deep, waffle design of the soles can damage the court. Tennis-specific shoes are better because they provide extra lateral support, don't mark or damage the court, and hold up well to heavy abuse. Hard and clay court shoes usually have soles with a flat herringbone pattern, while the soles of grass court shoes have a dimple pattern to have prevent slipping and sliding.
Though not required, some players wear hats or visors to help keep the sun out of their eyes. Headbands, wristbands and towels also come in handy to soak up perspiration. Many players insert vibration dampeners into the racket's strings to reduce the amount of vibration that may travel to their arm. You may find carrying extra overgrips useful, especially if your hands sweat a lot. And, a racket bag makes for a functional accessory to carry your racket and other items.
- Photo Credit Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images
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