Kinesys Performance Sunscreen
Price: $9/1 oz.; $22/4 oz. (SPF 50)
Developed by athletes for athletes and made in Canada, all Kinesys sunscreens offer broad spectrum protection, meaning they fend off both harmful UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. However, what makes them even more attractive is what they’re lacking: The advanced hypoallergenic formulas are oil, alcohol, PABA, paraben and preservative-free. Instead of messy rubbing or a thick, odorous cloud, Kinesys sunscreens use a non-aerosol microspray application that minimizes product usage—a 4 oz. bottle can produce 700+ sprays—and dries quickly without any residue. That makes it perfect before and during play as it won't cause your grip to slip. The sunscreens are also fragrance free or available with mild scents such as Mango and Vanilla-Green Tea.
The Proton is not your father’s ball machine. Weighing just 17 pounds and with the dimensions of a backpack (15”x17”x9”), it is the ultimate in portability. But don’t let its size fool you—it still holds 100 balls and can do everything you’d want from a ball machine, and then some. Produced after three years of development by Bay Area startup, Hydrogen Sports—founder Jonah Harley spent nearly a decade working at Apple—the Proton leverages state of the art technology to minimize bulk and maximize performance. High-performance drone motors shoot balls up to 70 mph with topspin or backspin of up to 3000 rpms. Lightweight, quick-change lithium-ion batteries provide its power, with the capability of shooting 1000 balls on a single charge. The smartphone interface allows users to pick from numerous pre-made practice routines or devise one of their own simply by tapping the screen. Every shot can be individually specified for speed, spin, location and timing. Set to be released in summer 2020, pre-orders of the initial run of machines are already sold out. Stay tuned for the next round.
Price: $400 (Oculus Quest) / $20 (game)
Remember Wii Tennis? Remember how (kind of) fun it was to play an interactive sports video game? The limitations of that platform—had to be plugged in and dependent on a screen—not to mention its rudimentary graphics and gameplay eventually caused its appeal to plummet. (Although evidently still popular in retirement homes). Racket:NX is Wii on steroids that have been taking steroids.
Played while wearing a virtual reality headset—in my case an Oculus Quest—it is a fully immersive game that tests your strokes and spatial awareness using a handheld controller for a racquet. Instead of on a court, it appears that you’re in the middle of giant enclosed arena. The ball ricochets off the boundaries and the force with which you strike it—good timing and mechanics are rewarded—smashes floating objects and targets as you gather points. It’s like being trapped in a game of breakout played within a pinball machine set to a rave soundtrack.
And proponents have discovered that, released from the inhibitions of hitting a ball over the net and keeping it between the lines, most players naturally employ full-body, proper swings without any instruction. If you can’t get to the courts—maybe someday the developers will provide that option—this is a fun and futuristic alternative to “work” on your game.
For many players, especially those with chronic foot pain, the arch support supplied by factory-installed insoles isn’t nearly enough. Gel and foam inserts are often inadequate, and seldom maintain their integrity for more than a few weeks. Custom orthotics are a remedy, but also can cost more than your racquet. SelectFlex looks to bridge that gap. What makes it unique is its customized and adjustable arch support. With a turn of a key, the wearer can choose between three different levels of flexural resistance to support variable loads. Not only does it provide better kinetic alignment and absorb downward force, but also acts as a spring releasing energy back into each step. The makers are so confident that pain-sufferers, athletes and anybody looking for additional foot support will be satisfied with SelectFlex, they’re offering a 60-day money back guarantee. Better still, tennis.com readers can use code TENNIS20 at checkout to receive an additional 20% discount on a first purchase.
Signum Pro Firestorm and Triton
For those unfamiliar with Signum Pro, the German string-maker has earned a solid reputation, most notably for its polyesters. Firestorm has been on the market for a while, but we’re just getting familiar with it. Currently in the racquet of world No. 8, Matteo Berrettini, it offers impressive pop and feel for a poly. In fact, I found it necessary to string it a few pounds tighter than I typically would for other strings in the category. Spin is also quite good, but control is its outstanding attribute. However, if spin generation is what you’re after, the rough, granulated surface of the recently released Triton string could make it the poly for you. Most textured strings rely on nicks or cuts to provide extra grab on the ball. The downside is it hampers durability. Triton has material added to the surface of the string to get that bite, so endurance isn’t compromised. It’s not as friendly feeling at contact as Firestorm, but it does load the ball with extra rotation.
Website: www.tennis.one or App Store
If you’re looking for a hub for live scores, tournament draws, player match-ups as well as news and analysis, the recently launched TennisOne houses everything in one user-friendly app. Winner of the Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge at the 2020 Racquet and Paddle Sports Show, TennisOne aggregates information and highlights for dozens of ATP and WTA events, so there’s no need to download the individual tournament apps, which can often be buggy and lacking content. Plus, there are interactive features, social media streams of the top players and games—such as daily picks, point streak live and trivia—that bolster the user experience.
Top Spin Power
An effective ground stroke is built from the ground up. Hitting all arm with a lack of weight transfer can rob shots of power and control. The handy and portable Top Spin Power training aid is designed to help players ingrain the good habit of shifting their weight onto their front foot. When players step on the four-inch disc during a swing, an auditory “click” sound lets them know when their weight has transferred forward. Whether an instructor or someone new to the game, it’s a simple, effective tool for building this important muscle memory. (It works for the golf swing as well). The disc weighs just 3 ounces but the rigid polycarbonate shell can withstand up to 500 pounds of pressure. And the 3M grip tape on the bottom is anti-slip and non-abrasive so it won’t scratch or damage the court.