Combing through closets to bounce unused clothes from the hanger bar isn’t the only source of spring cleaning for tennis players. As April approaches and the weather warms, many players clear the cobwebs from their games, rid racquet bags of old gear and prepare for the move from indoor to outdoor courts.
“Experienced recreational players understand that just as your car will drive better with regular oil changes, there is some maintenance involved with your gear,” says Midwest Sports’ product manager Dave Limke. “When you get new strings, re-grip and put a vibration dampener, you tune things up without having to necessarily go out and buy a brand new racquet. Essentially, you can make it play pretty close to new, assuming it’s not a 10-year-old racquet.”
Restocking your racquet bag doesn’t have to drain your wallet. We talked to some of the nation’s top retailers and specialty store owners for their views on the best gear buys for $25 or less. Here are some suggestions:
(Next week, we’ll explore some of the best apparel buys for under $25, and wrap up by offering stringer and retailer recommendations for a variety of strings.)
Gamma Ballhopper Risette 50 (MSRP $22.95)
Give your back a break from bending over to pick up stray balls and check out the Gamma Ballhopper, which can hold 50 balls and features handles that flip over into a stand.
Babolat Loony French Open Damp (MSRP $4.95)
The official brand of Roland Garros combines tradition with a comic touch in this vibration dampener two-pack. One displays the classic Roland Garros logo while the other re-imagines the red clay as a pair of eyes staring down the ball onto the strings.
Head HydroSorb Replacement Grip (MSRP $10)
Available in black and red or white and black, the HydroSorb features a high-tack surface that keeps moisture off your hand, sustaining a sure grip. Shock absorption and cushioning are its key qualities.
Tourna Grip 10 Pack (MSRP $16.95)
Pete Sampras brought the blues back to Madison Square Garden earlier this month, taking the court against archrival Andre Agassi with a blacked-out racquet trimmed with Tourna Grip’s light blue overgrip. Made in the USA, Tourna Grip counts the Bryan Brothers, Andy Murray, John Isner, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova among its users, who like its lightweight and secure feel.
Wilson Pro Overgrip 12-Pack (MSRP $24)
When Roger Federer and Serena Williams re-grip, they both wrap the distinctive white Wilson Pro overgrip around their handles. Our personal favorite is Wilson’s best-seller. At .55 millimeters thick, it’s thin enough to offer racquet response and the color works as a barometer of change: when the white becomes a grimy, grungy grey, it’s time for a new one.
Babolat French Open All Court Ball (MSRP $4.25)
Babolat takes over as official ball of Roland Garros this spring, and you can add some French flavor to your game with the brand’s all-court ball.
Camelbak Elixir Orange Alert (MSRP $10)
Providing a quick pick-up without the sugar of some energy drinks or the bitter taste of coffee, Elixir Orange Alert is a sugar-free tablet that dissolves in 24 oz. of water. There are 10 tablets in a $10 tube, with each one offering 10 calories and 75 mg of caffeine—about the same as a shot of expresso or a serving of Red Bull. No messy mixing required.
PowerBar Energy Gel Pack (MSRP: $1.19-$1.29)
PowerBar brands its 41-gram gel pack as “fast fuel,” and some pro players supplement the tour’s staple snack—bananas—by ingesting this instant energy both before and during matches. Now available in seven flavors, the gel comes in both caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions. The Double Latte flavor offers 200 mg of sodium to replace electrolytes lost in sweat—as well as 27 g of carbs and 10 g of sugar.
Paper Shower 6 Pack (MSRP $7.50)
Wash up between sets without soap and water with Paper Shower, a combination of moist and dry towelettes sealed in variously sized multi-packs which fit in your bag or pocket. Each towelette is 9” x 12”. Paper shower gained a bit of international exposure when the Illinois-based brand sent packs of the products to Chile for use by the 33 miners trapped underground.
Chilly Pad Super Cooling Towel (MSRP: $14.95)
Whether you need to cool off amid scorching conditions or just relish a chillaxing changeover, the Chilly Pad delivers. Made by Frogg Toggs, it’s a 27” x 17” towel that transforms into a cooling device when wet. When it stops cooling after a few hours, re-wet the towel, wring it out, and it starts cooling again. “We got some of these and they were immediately one of our hottest-selling items,” says Woody Schneider, who owns Grand Central Racquet in New York City. “They’re great for kids who play tournaments or attend tennis camps.”
Nalgene MultiDrink Water Bottle (MSRP: $14.99)
Drinking water is an essential activity on court, but leaky bottles that flood racquet bags can be as annoying a dripping faucet. Nalgene offers a solution with its 24-oz. MultiDrink water bottle that comes with a leak-proof lock to prevent spills. The bottle offers a wide-mouth cap that can be removed to add ice, as well as a pivoting straw when you don’t need a big gulp. Measurement marks along the side of the bottle make it ideal for mixing ice tea or powdered drinks.