Have you ever seen a game of pick-up tennis being played on the street? Probably not. But soccer? Definitely…Soccer’s global popularity is due in large part to its simplicity. You just need a ball and some goals, and your team gets a point when you kick the ball in the goal. Tennis, on the other hand, has been referred to as “the sport of kings,” and you need to find a court somewhere to play. Then you have to learn a somewhat complicated scoring system. While it may seem intimidating to figure out how to get started playing tennis, it’s a sport that provides mental, physical, and social benefits. So, if you haven’t tried it yet, you should definitely give the game a shot. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to ace your tennis playing.
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Why should I play?
Tennis is a sport that can be played for a lifetime. While you’ll be hard-pressed to find retirees playing popular youth sports such as football, basketball, or volleyball, tennis can be enjoyed well into retirement. While some pick up the sport as children, many don’t start playing tennis until adulthood, so it’s never too late to get started. While the youth have the advantage of power and speed, older players can often outmaneuver younger opponents through consistency and precision. In many ways, tennis is the sport most akin to chess.
There are many advantages to playing tennis. The sport gives you a great cardio workout, but because of the stopping and starting between points, you only need to run for about thirty seconds to a minute at a time, and you get to take breaks between games and sets. It also improves hand-eye coordination, balance, agility, and critical thinking.
While tennis isn’t really a team sport, it is a social sport. If you choose to play doubles, you will learn how to communicate and work together with your partner, but even if you play singles, you will likely play with friends or get involved in a league.
What things do I need to play?
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Tennis doesn’t require a whole lot of specialty equipment. All you need are a tennis racquet, a tennis ball, and tennis shoes.
- Racquet. Choosing the right racquet is important. If you are just trying out the game for the first time, you may want to borrow a racquet from a friend or buy one second hand, but if you plan to play regularly, it’s beneficial to ask an expert to help you find a racquet with the right grip size, head size, and weight. Playing with a racquet with the right grip size is especially important because if you play with a racquet grip that is too big or too small, you may find yourself developing tendonitis, which is more commonly known as tennis elbow. There are other factors to consider when purchasing a racquet, such as whether it is designed more for power or control and how much spin it produces. The type of strings and the tension of the strings affect performance as well, but none of these factors are critical considerations for a beginner. If you think you might want to buy a racquet, find a pro shop with a demo program—they will usually let you try out racquets for free.
Balls. While you don’t need to put too much thought into purchasing tennis balls, there are such things as practice balls. Tennis balls typically come in a pressurized can, and new balls bounce much higher than old balls. However, if you’re just practicing and not playing matches, and you don’t want to deal with balls losing pressure, you can purchase practice balls in a bag, which are much cheaper.
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- Shoes. You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy expensive tennis shoes right away, but running shoes are not recommended for tennis long term. Tennis shoes tend to have non-marking soles, provide more ankle support due to the constant lateral movement, and have reinforced toes due to the constant stopping and starting. If you try playing tennis in running shoes, you may find yourself slipping on the court, and your toes might eventually create holes in the mesh.
Optional Clothing & Equipment
- Clothing. Some tennis clubs have rules about what to wear, but if you’re not playing somewhere that has a dress code, you can wear any type of athletic clothing. Shorts with pockets or a skirt with a ball holder or built-in shorts is helpful so that you always have room for a spare ball. A visor or cap is also helpful for keeping the sun out of your eyes, and sweatbands can make it easier to wipe away excess sweat.
- Racquet accessories. For your racquet, you can consider putting an overgrip on the handle to prevent it from slipping out of your hands as easily. The overgrip is also easy to change once it gets worn out, but if you don’t use an overgrip, you may have to replace your grip from time to time. A shock absorber or dampener is another cheap but helpful piece of equipment to use on your racquet since it decreases the vibrations of your strings and reduces the likelihood of developing tendonitis.
- Racquet bag. You don’t want to have to carry a racquet, balls, water, sunscreen, etc. in your hands, so having a well-designed racquet bag is helpful. Furthermore, when you start playing more seriously, you will likely have more than one racquet, so having an over-the-shoulder or backpack-style tennis bag will free up your hands. We’ve got some options.
- Ball hopper. If you’re going to the courts to practice, especially if you’re by yourself, you probably don’t want to stop every two minutes to pick up the few balls you brought. If you have a ball hopper, you can load up to 80 balls in the specially-designed basket, serve to your heart’s content, and then use the hopper to pick up the balls without having to bend down and hurt your back.
Where do I play? How do I find someone to play with? Do I need lession?
In the US, many neighborhoods have tennis courts for the community to use. There are also public courts run by local parks and recreation departments or schools, as well as private country clubs or tennis clubs. You can check out this tool from the USTA to find a court near you.
The best way to get started is to find a friend who plays and tag along. If you don’t know anyone who plays tennis, you can consider signing up for tennis lessons, and the coach will likely pair you up with some other students. Recreational leagues are popular, and you can find them in your area with a simple google search.
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Tennis lessons are another consideration if you want to improve quickly and want an expert’s help with teaching you proper technique. Tennis lessons can range from $20-$100 or more per hour, with private lessons being more expensive than group lessons. In the US, the average price for tennis lessons runs between $60-$80 per hour. But don’t let the steep price hold you back from playing. Today, there are plenty of free videos online that teach you how to improve your strokes and your serves. One of our favorites is Essential Tennis. The key is to get out on the court and practice, practice, practice. Repetition will help you improve quickly.
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Hopefully, now you’re convinced to give tennis a shot. While you don’t necessarily need to get bogged down with the rules of the game right away, it will be helpful to have a basic understanding of the flow of the game. Check out some of our other articles to give you a simple overview of different aspects of the game.
Tennis Scoring 101
Tennis Serving Rules 101