By Caitlin Thompson
If you’ve found yourself wandering into the tennis section of a sporting goods store anytime in the past decade, you’d conclude that pickleball is hot on the heels of tennis as the de facto racquet sport, and you’d be forced to do so while some guy mansplains string patterns to you. Pro shops aren’t where the action is anymore, and back by popular demand, we’ve compiled a Summer Gear Guide to help you wayfind through the obvious to deeper cuts—both brand new and curated from the archives—that you’re not likely to see in a brick-and-mortar retail experience. From equipment to lifestyle, let us take you on a journey—of gear.
Let’s start where most folks—especially the ones you see playing pro tennis on your tvs—get it terribly wrong: Style. If you’re not familiar with the many, many, many new direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands who’ve either launched their wares in a hot tennis market or have seized on the moment and released themed collections this season, let’s walk through the must-haves for anyone who wants to look their best on or off court—isn’t that everyone?
The brand new Palmes Society has just dropped a men’s collection of stylish basics, and Parisian fashion brand Casablanca has made some big waves in the tennis world with their New Balance collaboration, featuring the irrepressible Coco Gauff. Their tennis club merch remains a house favorite here at Racquet HQ. I’m not sure how breathable silk shirts are for tennis, but we’re willing to risk the heatstroke to look this nuts.
No big brand has been doing it better than Lacoste these days when it comes to clean lines, bold colours and incredibly well-made gear. I don’t often wear tennis-specific clothing on the court, but when I do, Lacoste’s Summer kits are an easy choice. It’s Yonex’s 75th anniversary this year, and in addition to their usual lineup of incredibly powerful sticks, they’re out with a snappy heritage collection of apparel and bags in bold blue and green colourways.
Two other performance-oriented brands that can work for tennis as well as the all-important apres tenis are Castore’s AMC collection—named for the British stalwart Andy Murray and made of high-end merino wool—and Naomi Osaka’s second Nike NO capsule. It just dropped this week, so you can nab it at Nordstroms or at select Nike retailers. Lastly, no kit is complete without a vintage tennis sweater vest—yes, you can and should play in them, as they keep your core warm—and there’s nothing better than sourcing them second hand, like this FILA beauty from the Boris Becker collection. Sure Grailed and GOAT have some options, but when we’re doing deep dives, nothing beats Ebay.
We’ll keep it simple this year, as racquet technology means you really can’t go wrong with most sticks you’ll find online. House faves for us are the Babolat Pure Aero Rafa on the lighter side, and if you need something more substantial for weight, there’s a reason the Prince Graphite has remained a classic for more than two decades. For those seeking a more stylish option, the limited-edition Lacoste Tecnifibre stick adds a certain je-ne-sais quoi to your racquet bag.
If finding a partner isn’t always accessible, the Slinger bag—a portable, relatively lightweight ball machine you operate with a remote control—is a must. It was a port in a storm for me last Summer when so many public parks were closed for the pandemic, and it turns any park—or even your backyard—into center court. While you’re playing the finals of Wimbledon (in your mind), make like the pros and outfit your racquets with one of our dime bag dampeners—whether you feel your racquet’s vibration or not, you’ll definitely be feeling some vibes.
For anyone who knows me, I’m an insufferable recovery stan—I track my daily exertion (and sleep quality) with a Whoop strap and I’m into trying just about any product or technology that promises to make my body feel better apres sport.
The two musts I’ve tried out in the past six months are the CBD ointment made by WeedSport—the topical cream really is the best, and even smells a little of weed for that verisimilitude. HyperIce’s massagers have long been one of my staples, but this year I’ve been lucky enough to use their Normatec compression booties. Nothing makes you feel more like a pro—whether you’ve just played best of five or haven’t left the couch.
July 1, 2021