Babolat RPM Power
Price: $17 set; $230 reel
As its name suggests, the RPM line is a string noted for its spin generation and control. However, for some players the polyester can feel overly firm and dead at contact. Those who wished it has a bit more liveliness and pop will appreciate the recently released RPM Power. The string comes in a copper or “electric brown” color that differentiates it from the other RPM models. It has a wiry, brassy feel to the touch, and—possibly due to its coating—makes a chalkboard screeching sound when pulling the crosses. It gave the impression it would play like barb wire, yet was actually quite forgiving with dependable snapback. Keep in mind its “power” moniker is by comparison to RPM Blast; it’s not multifilament soft and still takes a healthy cut to get the ball moving. But seasoned poly players looking for something juicier and easier on the arm that still provides plenty of access to spin and control with want to give RPM Power a swing.
Price: $99 (Get Lean Set)
Jumping rope is an efficient, do-anywhere calorie-burning workout, not to mention a great way to get the blood pumping before a match. It also has the long-term benefits of bolstering agility and coordination. The Crossrope brings a worthwhile wrinkle to the activity in the form of added resistance via weighted, interchangeable ropes. The high-performance, ergonomic handles are equipped with the patented “fast clip system” that allows you to quickly switch between ropes to vary the difficulty. Even if your skill set is limited to basic hops, the free Crossrope app is loaded with engaging workouts and challenges. Updated weekly, they combine jumping rope with bodyweight movements that cater to different performance goals—endurance, HIIT, strength—and ability levels. The Get Lean Set comes with ¼ and ½ pound ropes, but there are handles and options for ropes up to 5 pounds for more experienced jumpers. Try it risk-free for 60 days. Don’t love the ropes, send them back in any condition for a full refund, including shipping.
Feetures Decoded Collection
Price: $16-$18/pair; $45-$87/bundles
Last year we got introduced to Feetures. The socks are more of a known quantity in the running and fitness communities, but they’re absolutely capable on the tennis court. They’re constructed with targeted compression, anatomical design (left and right foot specific), iWick fibers to keep feet dry, seamless toe and high-density knitting for increased comfort and durability. And with three levels of cushioning and various heights, they’re a fit for just about any foot. The newly enhanced Elite line—the Decoded Collection—debuted in February. It sports an upgraded mesh pattern at the top of the sock for heightened breathability and comfort. And they come in the vibrant colors and patterns that set Feetures apart from the standard performance sock.
Racquets, string, overgrip, towel, extra shirts—those are just some of the things players typical keep in their bags. The Slinger Bag can handle those assignments and offer a unique extra: a portable practice partner. Built into the 22-pound bag is a battery-powered ball launcher with two customizable dials to control the launch speed, angles and frequency. The variability allows you to send bullets to the other side of the court, or act as a ball boy to gently spit out balls for serves or short feeds. The bag holds 36 balls when closed, 72 when open and gets up to five hours of battery life. There’s even a USB port to charge your phone while you play. Since it’s so lightweight, it comes with backpack straps if you want to carry it, or luggage wheels if you want to roll it. And it easily fits into any car trunk. While more expensive than a standard racquet bag, the price starts at about 50% less than competing, plug-in, non-portable ball machines. Be on the lookout for the first Slinger Bags, which are scheduled to drop this spring.
Every competitive athlete knows that recovery from a match or tough workout is a huge determinant of future performance. Whoop is designed to monitor physiological markers throughout the day that measure the level of strain on the body and its effect on its readiness to perform. The lightweight, waterproof strap is worn just below the bone on the wrist, and collects a trove of data such as heart rate variability—time between each heartbeat—resting heart rate and sleep quality to grade your level of recovery. All the information is analyzed and relayed through an accompanying smartphone app and website.
Since the strap is intended to be worn 24/7—the battery charger actually slides on the band so it doesn’t have to be taken off—it tracks all the stresses in your life, whether it be a tough three-setter or a tense day at the office. It can recognize when you’re engaged in physical activity or sleep, and then asks questions to help assess its impact on your body. Strain and Sleep Coach features offer exertion recommendations based on your current state of recovery. The latest band is free to start, with a $30/month, six-month commitment. If you’re serious about your training, Whoop can help take it to another level.