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Racquet’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

By Caitlin Thompson

We’re proud to present our second annual Racquet Holiday Gift Guide, with recommendations for every variety of tennis-lover in your life, from rarefied drops for the on and off-court tastemaker to opulent gifts for the culture connoisseur. Of course I’ve included a bevy of must-have equipment (and accessories), for those of you bold enough to gift someone who already plays the game something in that category. And by popular demand, I’ve blown out an entire section on the experiential—if the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that every moment spent on or around a tennis court is precious. Enjoy!

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Apparel

I love the simplicity of this year’s END. adidas tennis club collection—the pastels and array of straightforward classics are guaranteed to have everyone in a tropical state of mind, and for those more interested in maximalism, the indie (and eco-conscious) label Laurel Canyon Tennis Club dabbles in the neo psychedelic. Copenhagen-born Palmes, which features classics from jersey sweater-vests to highly tailored workshirts, is your choice for the understated dresser—for a more femimine silhouette—picture lots of smartly cropped polos and streamlined skirts & dresses—try Non-member Sport

House fave tennis skatewear brand Paterson released their Breakfast of Champions collection this Fall, which features a strawberry tennis skirt (along with matching dad hat), or you can go in a camo direction with a Vibe tennis windbreaker. They’ll pair well with the high-end footwear collab of LA leather craftsman KILLSPENCER x PUMA, and for a timeless on-court look, Tory Sport’s tennis collection is both understated and the right amount of indulgent. I’m coveting the ruffle top & twill skirt combo for when I need to bring maximum elegance to my on-court proceedings.

We’ve never been let down by French tastemakers The Ace Club (find them for a hit when you’re next in Paris or just rep them and their ace of spades) and do the same in California—just make sure you’re coming correct to the Racquet Club LA with their indelible sweatshirt. We love the luxurious monogramming and silks of Berlin-based Sleep Over, but if you still can’t decide: nobody ever looked bad in a from our Parqs & Rec collection—try the Palm Springs colourway to brighten your Winter mood.

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Experiential

Since this is our second annual gift guide, I was able to calibrate based on last year’s hits and misses—and the overwhelming feedback was that people wanted to give (and receive) tennis experiences. Since there’s a lot of noise in this category (as anyone who’s ever thumbed through the back half of a Tennis Magazine can attest), I’m pleased to present only the murderer’s row of tournament and travel packages that any serious Racquet aficionado should strongly consider.

The Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre in Playa Mujeres tops our list this year, and I’ll tell you why:this sister-academy to Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca should surprise nobody with its commitment to top-notch instruction, soup-to-nuts amenities and of course the affiliation with one of the game’s greatest practitioners. That alone justifies the trip, but when you consider this resort is available for outside instruction all year long and if you account for some of the best beaches and food in North America, I think you’ll conclude there’s few better places to anticipate visiting during the frigid Winter months.

For East Coasters looking for a quick getaway to the Hudson Valley, Total Tennis in Saugerties New York has year-round tennis camps for teams, singles as well as families, phenomenal instructors and locally grown and sourced cuisine. If you can hold out till warmer months, the 24 red clay courts are there for the taking, and the Saturday night barn dances aren’t to be missed. Farther afield for city dwellers but no less magical is the collection of four brightly colored courts encircled by Airstream trailers you can rent—a magical place known as The Courts, situated in the low California desert town of Anza Borrego. 

To play grass court tennis these days, you’ve got to have an in with a member at one of the few private clubs (most in North America are situated in the northeast, the UK has a handful as well) with grass tennis courts or be good enough to play in one of the rare tournaments, which tend to be invite only, on the surface. Wisconsin’s Sand Valley, most known for its award-winning golf courses, is in the middle of a massive expansion of their tennis footprint—they now offer the largest public grass tennis court facility in the country, with special programming for day visitors as well as resort guests. 

If you’re more interested in a play and watch situation, our friends at Grand Slam Tennis Tours offer packages for hitting and spectating at each of the four slam tournaments, as well as the Slam-esque BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. They’re giving Racquet friends and family 10% off a package this year, so mention us when you book to get a discount. And for those of you looking to meet (or gift) a tennis connection (platonic OR romantic, you decide), let us recommend our LA friends’ Tenez who are holding a “Meet your Match” tournament for anyone looking to expand their social circle—isn’t that everyone? 

A subscription to Play Your Court can help newcomers find instructors and hitting partners as well as online instruction. But the most baller experience of all is to own your own tennis club and do whatever you want with it. You and hundreds of your closest friends can buy this Granite Bay, CA facility —featuring five gorgeous courts, a clubhouse and a pool—all for the low, low price of $1.5m. Just make sure you hire us to redesign it, as a holiday gift to your friends at Racquet. 

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Equipment

Our Summer Gear Guide is the time and place for serious on-court equipment, so I’ve gone light on the racquet recommendations—though if you must, the Yonex E-Zone Series for power hitters and the Babolat Pure Aero Rafa for the more spin-friendly are no-brainers. Instead, I’m pleased to emphasize a wider range of tennis accessories that are personally approved (by me!) to give (or get) this holiday season.

I try to give myself the gift of recovery whenever I can, and the combo of Weed Sport CBD cream, Amour gummies and my fave HyperVolt Massager (with matching Normantec booties) allows me to feel indulgent, but with purpose, the best kind. I’ve also started using Friction Labs’ Secret Stuff hand chalk when my overgrips aren’t quite doing the trick, and of course I track all my movements down to granular sleep patterns with my Whoop 4.0

My favorite type of gifts are the ones that you’d never buy for yourself and bring a small but measurable amount of joy. A perfect example is treating my foot beds like the queens they are by upgrading my soles to Gripliners. I’ll be getting my podcast co-host a gift of Casa Del Sol Tequila this year, her favorite spirit that she treats as an equipment essential. Similarly, bringing a bit of NYC to your stick with the Everything, Egg or Cheese coloured grips from Bageled (they also obsessively track whenever a bagel gets handed down on the pro tour scoreboards), or help your loved ones battle glare with a pair of Revos, specially manufactured for tennis players. 

Lastly, even equipment needs to take it up a notch around the holiday season, so if you’re not getting your loved one a Slinger bag (the must-have ball machine—it’s portable!) then you can give them the most luxurious Blu Scarpa Racquet—distinctive cerulean ombre and all.

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Culture

Tennis culture is where we live (and perhaps something we reinvented?) and nothing says more holiday gift happiness than a subscription to our award-winning print magazine. We’ve made it especially easy for you this year: follow the link and input the gift recipient’s address and email and they’ll get a special note along with their mail welcoming them to the Racquet family. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here, a selection of the finest tennis cultural artifacts currently available for purchase.

Catalan collage artist Març Rabal’s works are among many prints available for purchase in our shop, but I’m featuring  them for a second year in a row because they’re guaranteed to be a hit among a wide variety of recipients. For those with a bookshelf or coffee table in mind, the brand-new Phaidon release Match Point features the work of UK legend Martin Parr, or you could go into a more autofiction territory with 41-Love, a new work of fiction by Scarlett Thomas. Racquet: The Book,  with a forward by our editor David Shaftel, is a must for any Racquet completist. 

You can make a splash like ATP player Reilly Opelka and rock up to the court with a Tim Van Laere Gallery Art x Tennis Club bag ($10k fine not included), or you can telegraph your exquisite taste in sport and fine art with a TVLG bucket hat or sweatshirt. There aren’t many more appropriately festive gifts than a bottle of classic UK brand Penhaligon’s, who this year revived their classic fragrance Racquets, for the type of tennis fan who uses the term ‘lawn.’ Similarly, a bottle (or four-pack) of Hangar 1 California Spirits & Botanical Seltzers is our choice for a post-match refreshment.

For those of you who’ve already created a tennis-ball mobile for your newborn a la Mike Agassi, be sure to get a copy of It Starts at Love, Laura Vallverdu’s magnificent illustrated children’s book, or if you’re shopping for a dad who might also smoke a pipe, Charles Johnstone & Bill Sullivan’s book is your move. For the type who might otherwise be tempted into buying art via NFT, get them the real thing with this gorgeous Nate Harris work, entitled ‘LOVE’ (price is available upon request, my favorite kind of price!)

For the deliciously inscrutable gift recipient, Leanne Shapton’s watercolor collection of famous socks from the International Tennis Hall of Fame is guaranteed to be the most unique present given or received this year (tennis fan or not.)

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The Racquet Gift Subscription

And last but certainly not least, give the gift of Racquet with our Gift Subscription: Starting with Issue No. 18, this gift certificate is good for a four-issue subscription to our award-winning magazine. At checkout, simply input the recipient’s shipping address where prompted, and provide their email address in “Order Notes” at the bottom of the checkout page (required to notify gift recipient). We’ll inform them of the gift on Dec. 25, 2021.

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