We've been very good this year—honest. Here's what we'd really like to see under the tree:
Steve Tignor, Senior Writer
Gear: Yonex VCORE Tour 89 Racquet
$179; link here.
You know when a racquet just feels right? When you have no idea whether it’s heavy or light, stiff or flexible, stable or maneuverable, because it doesn’t matter? Because whatever it is, it’s working? That’s how I felt when I tried out Yonex’s new V-Core 89 this summer. Yes, that’s a 89-inch head, which is tiny by today’s standards. But I grew up playing with the old Pete Sampras 85-inch Wilson Pro Staff, so the Yonex felt like coming home to something a little smaller. It felt, as I said, just right.
Non-Gear: Wimbledon Classic Match, Borg vs. Gerulaitis 1977 DVD
$25.00; link here.
For my book about tennis in the Borg-McEnroe era, High Strung, I naturally began by watching their classic 1980 Wimbledon final. But I found clips from another vintage Centre Court match of that time, the five-set 1977 semifinal between Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis, even more riveting. “Like summer lightning” is how one British writer of the time described these two men with long hair and short shorts as they ran each other through a long and exciting afternoon. You can make lightning strike again with this disc.
Justin diFeliciantonio, Gear Editor
Gear: Skins RY400 Men’s Compression Long Tights
$140; link here.
As any tennis player knows, once the legs go, your chances of playing well are pretty much sunk. Hence my recent interest in purchasing a pair of lower extremity tights, like Skins’ RY400s. Research shows that compression garments really do work, expediting recovery from injury and muscle fatigue by increasing the flow of oxygen to muscles. (For an in-depth discussion of the topic, see my interview with Todd Ellenbecker, Chairman of the USTA’s Sports Science Committee.) So I’ve wondered if regularly wearing tights would affect my own athletic performance, especially during those tournaments that compress a slew of matches into the course of a weekend. Maybe, post-Christmas, I’ll have satisfied my curiosity.
Non-Gear: William Klein’s The French DVD
€14,94; link here.
For some time, I’ve been jonesing for a copy of William Klein’s documentary The French, on the 1981 French Open. A number of clips have been lifted from the film and placed on YouTube, but they’re scattered, unfortunately, and ultimately incomplete. Having read Steve Tignor’s post “All the Clay’s a Stage,” I’m now inclined to take in Klein’s vision for myself. What was the spirit of this “golden era” of tennis? Who were its characters? What did it feel like? Klein’s frame must offer a few possible answers. The only challenge: Finding a copy; I've yet to see one sold in the U.S. Let me know, will you, if one crosses your eye?
Richard Pagliaro, Senior Editor
Gear: Asics GEL-Solution Speed Shoes
$130; link here.
Weeks of hard-court play make my feet feel as if they’d served as the brakes for Fred Flintstone’s car during a drag race. Stress fractures, a prolonged case of Plantar fasciitis and countless calluses are collateral damage from years of playing, but I’ve found a panacea for my foot problems: Asics’ Gel-Solution Speed. I chose these because they’re so light and low to the ground that you feel like you’re wearing running shoes. They don’t beat up your feet, yet are surprisingly stable for a sub-13 oz. shoe. On January 1, Asics launches a sharp, new black-and-yellow version.
Non-Gear: The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time Book
$25.95; link here.
Time travel occurs with a turn of the page of tennis historian Steve Flink’s book The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time. It’s transformative, enabling you to parachute into some of the most riveting moments in tennis history, and comprehensive. Suzanne Lenglen’s victory over Helen Wills in Cannes in 1927 opens the book; Novak Djokovic’s epic, five-hour and 53-minute triumph over Rafael Nadal in the 2012 Australian Open final closes it. The book passionately and meticulously recreates tennis’ most acclaimed clashes and also includes Flink’s picks for Best Players of All Time and Greatest Strokes of All Time—it will be interesting to see where Serena’s serve and Federer’s forehand rank.
Peter Bodo, Senior Writer
Gear: Lobster Phenom Electric Tennis Ball Machine
Starting at $2,995; link here.
I would love to solve the oldest problem in tennis (after getting your first serve into play), which is finding a partner to hit with at the spur of the moment. The solution is obvious: Get hold of a ball machine. The versatile Lobster Phenom simulates the three basic types of player you’re likely to encounter—the grinder, the all-courter, and the power baseliner. (Mimicking a serve-and-volley player is a bridge too far, but who plays serve-and volley-these days anyway?) For an additional $300, it comes with a 20-function wireless remote, and about the only thing you can’t make it do is dance around and take practice swings a la Marion Bartoli.
Non-Gear: Dunlop Maxply Fort Racquet
Price varies; link here.
I’m not a nostalgia freak, nor am I a cranky old geezer who thinks everything was better 30 or 40 years ago, although it probably was. But I’d still like a Dunlop Maxply Fort racquet.
I’d like it for the same reason some people own and occasionally go for a Sunday drive in a red 1965 Corvette convertible. The racquet—strung with gut, of course—just screams “classic,” and there’s still nothing quite like the flex and feel of what was often called the “Rod Laver racquet.”
Ed McGrogan, Online Editor
Gear: Lacoste Short Sleeve Super Dry Triple Stripe Polo
$56.99; link here.
Lacoste saved its best outfit for last in 2012, as its sizable stable of French players—along with American John Isner—donned this bright beauty at the U.S. Open and throughout the fall indoor swing. Some may call it tennis’ version of an ugly Christmas sweater, but I love the main color, orange, and the complementary stripes. (There's also a version in blue, with green, yellow, white, and red stripes.) Wear this with a white pair of shorts, a staple in any players’ wardrobe, and it pops even more. Joyeux Noël!
Non-Gear: Killerspin Premium Set with Diamond CQ RTG-Premium Table Tennis Racquet
$249.99; link here.
Winter in the Northeast means taking tennis indoors, and that includes table tennis. The hand-me-down table I own is just fine, but I’d like to upgrade my racquet—even if it would be worth substantially more than the table itself. This set from Killerspin (who sponsors the infrequent table tennis broadcasts on ESPN2) includes a top-of-the-line racquet and an eye-catching case. It’s a wonder this functional fashion statement hasn’t been made by players on the ATP and WTA tours.