By Caitlin Thompson
It’s time for this, our third 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. For those of you who need a deep dive into the world of tennis bracelets, our jewelry correspondent (and current WTA player Ali Riske) has the deets for you, and our favorite tennis influencer Liz Culley is writing a guide for spectators. Please enjoy them all responsibly. Happy holidays!
This year in tennis merch and collabs has been underwhelming: Has there become a more torched cultural signifier than the Pr*nce logo? I’m also here to shine a light on the great stuff, so that we can support the creation of better products for our on-and-off court needs and to give some overdue cred where it’s certainly deserved. In case you haven’t heard, re-commerce is just as important as new drops, so it’s in that spirit that I’ll start the apparel section of our gift guide by lauding a slept-on capsule that still doesn’t miss, half a decade on.
Yohji Yamomoto’s done some incredible work with adidas in the past decade, housed under his eponymous Y-3 label, and the tennis department over there in Herzo seems to like to lean on this partnership most heavily during Roland Garros. Many will remember the famous (or infamous) zebra stripe collection for 2016, but the year before is what captured my heart and stayed there: 2015’s blackout-out silhouettes meet Hawaiian print that moved no less than Vanessa Friedman, writing in the Times, to declare the capsule’s female kit “the tennis version of the little black dress meets “The Road Warrior.”’ There are some resale items up on Grailed that I’ve been eying, but if a Racquet Holiday Gift Guide reader were to secure the bag before me, I’d feel good that it was in safe hands.
Another brand that’s always in good hands is Reigning Champ, who does basics better than almost anyone—I particularly like their Solotex Line, which is both technical but good for street to court and back. A new entrant into the tennis space is J. Lindberg, the Swedish brand heretofore known for another sport played on lawn. They announced a big deal this year with the stylish Croatian player Petra Martic, and seeing their playful Scandi minimalism is a welcome change from her prior deal with Asiscs (note to Asics, please call us, it’s an emergency).
We can’t mention the Nordics without a nod to our friends at the Copenhagen menswear brand Palmes, who are out with their delivery no. 2, featuring some great suiting alongside their leisurewear, and shoutout to another new brand launch, Arthur Ashe. Their take on a cricket sweater in a Soweto colourway, tied to AA’s trip to South Africa to protest apartheid, is an incredible addition to the tennis kit canon. And trust me when I say playing in a cricket sweater—either long sleeved or vest—during colder months is a pro move.
Lastly, I don’t consider running a sport, but I do think it’s a difficult activity and good for fitness. This year I saw one of my hitting partners wearing a piece from the Tracksmith x J.Crew capsule, and while it didn’t change my mind about running, it did remind me that J.Crew is back!
Much like people who shop at Trader Joe’s too much or believe that cryptocurrency is real, I’ve made recovery hygiene my complete personality—sorry to my friends and fam— so I hope you know to trust me when I say that my picks are based on extremely thorough play testing. As ever, the WHOOP remains my go-to device for daily tracking, exertion, recovery, sleep—and now I’ve also started using it as an alarm. I’m waiting for v.10 when I just get it implanted into my body, but until then I’m using the 4.0.
For immediate post-hit recovery, I’ve got the HyperIce Venom Go on deck for heat and massage and the PowerDot to address any lingering injuries with TENS. I like it set to level 14, but I’ve been told I have a high-pain tolerance (flex), so don’t hurt yourself. In addition to their great full-length compression booties, this year Normantec has made a portable version called Go that you can wear around the house and not be confined to a stationary position. As always, my trusty WeedSport CBD stick gets anything they can’t—from migraines to body aches. Rounding out the kit is my Phenology Cool Mist roller, for simultaneously keeping it tight and also cooling me down. All the above are portable, which makes them great for presents!
Any serious tennis player is going to want a say in what racquet they use, and just like buying an engagement ring, I believe it’s better to involve the recipient in the decision. To that end, we’re going to be coming out with a comprehensive racquet guide in the new year with our friends at RPNY Tennis , the experts in racquets, strings, patterns and, when needed, custom sticks. So for now we’ll keep our gear section pretty minimal so that you can buy gifts for the people whose opinions can’t be trusted: Children.
Babolat decided to shift gears this winter with a new offering for juniors in search of a transition racquet—better than you can get off the shelf from a sporting goods store, but not quite pro model enough to justify a full size. In steps the EVO, in two colourways. Yonex also makes a good kid stick—my son has been using a junior EZone that he absolutely loves—and our friends at NYC-native Furi have launched a kid version of their entry-level racquet.
For the person who has (or had) everything and needs to make a big move, we suggest this indoor tennis court with a studio home attached! All for the low, low price of $630k with a special use exception so you can have a tennis pro claim it the hours you aren’t training. Sure it’s in Fort Wayne, Indiana, home of… I literally can’t think of anything… but between this house and its own private court, you’ll never have to go outside.
If getting away from it all is more your MO, look no further than Racquet family member Craig Shapiro—of Craig Shapiro Tennis Podcast and Craig Shapiro Tennis Podcast Tennis Academy, all a division of CSPN, fame. This year the Academy has visited such exclusive locales as Newport, Rhode Island and Guayaquil, Ecuador and if you catch him in time, Miami—including hits with pros, cultural excursions and some of the best private dining options one half-crazed man can imagine. But entrance to the Academy is strict, and I’d advise you to understand the rules and regulations before booking your spot. Example: If you brought your tennis racquets to college but tell people you played college tennis*, you cannot be in the Academy!
For lovers of adventure, possibly the finest club I’ve yet visited has to be Athens’ TATOΪ Club, which features 11 outdoor red-clay courts set amidst a lavender grove, an indoor tennis facility with architecturally significant touches, full-service restaurant with property-grown produce and a cutting-edge gym with everything from spa amenities to cryotherapy. Contact them about their adult tennis camps program if you’re ready for some final form tennis travel.
If you’re on the West Coast, you can head out for a hit while you support the phenomenal First Break Academy’s efforts to provide LA-based juniors elite coaching and resources. Even if you can’t make it to their Holiday Tennis Bash, consider making a donation in your loved one’s name. For those wanting to show Brooklyn some love, you can kick any charitable funds you’re looking to donate Kings County Tennis League’s way—it puts coaches and racquets into public housing communities, with spectacular results.
It wouldn’t be a Racquet Holiday Gift Guide if we weren’t interested in the culture—THE CULTURE IS WHERE WE LIVE—so please consider these gifts as being for the tennis adjacent as well as the tennis enthusiast.
No purpose-built tennis bags really capture the imagination at the moment, so what better way to make a statement than repurpose a classic weekender to tote your sticks? We like this gorgeous chestnut Cavalier III number from steadfast luggage experts Ghurka. For the tennis player retiring to bed, we love these truly divine threads from Berlin-based Tom Àdam, who just launched two matching sets with our print-mag compatriots Monocle (shoutout, as ever, to my fellow Canadian Tyler Brülé). The founder Tom is a tennis fanatic, and I strongly believe you’ll sleep better knowing that.
My post-match rituals are mostly about recovery (see above) but for those looking for a more spiritual recovery from an on-court encounter, consider invoking some real mesoamerican magic with the Madre Mezcal Ritual Kit. Along with a prayer book and other beautiful printed matter, the kit comes with a flask of the Oaxacan spirit, two handmade clay drinking saucers, and an incense holder and sticks of copal to really transport you into the next realm. Carlos Castañeda’s The Journey to Ixtlan not included. I’d also recommend taking things in a distinctly different direction with a bottle (mini or jeroboam, you decide) of champagne. At Racquet HQ, our sparkling of choice is Roederer, one of France’s Maisons de la Culture and a pas mal choice for the holidays.
If Racquet had its own scent—it doesn’t, yet—it might smell like this collaboration between Heretic Parfum & Drew Martin, The Herbalist, which captures the earthy tones of a clay court with its blend of Vetiver, Hinoki Wood, Cedar & CBD. Best of all, it’s plant-based and made for layering (with, I assume, sweat). ICYMI, we launched a watch this year with our friends from Zurich at Maurice de Mauriac, and while we ready the Rallymaster 2.0 , you can hit us up about pre-ordering one now. They’ll go fast.
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