Health & Fitness

8 easy ways to play tennis—without a court

Work on your serve, wherever you are.

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Few physical activities make social distancing easier than tennis—and getting started is easy, too. But weather, proximity to public courts, and availability of playing partners are just a few of the factors that can make getting out there and playing a traditional match a challenge.

Still, you can improve your game, even without a court at your disposal—and there's plenty of gear to help you refine your tennis skills along the way. Here’s how you can improve your tennis game without a court, including suggestions for a few training tools you’ll be sure to, ahem, love.

1. A portable net so you can play anywhere

portablenet
Credit: Aoneky

With a portable net, you can play wherever you've got space.

A standard tennis net is 42 feet wide, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to portability. However, numerous at-home net options can be set up in the driveway, yard, or any other flat surface for a quick game or drills whenever the urge strikes.

Pop-up nets are also excellent for kids learning the game (as are low-compression tennis balls, which come in various styles depending on your skill level). Most can be stored away easily, so they’re out of sight and out of mind when your training is complete.

2. A ball-returner so you never lose your playing equipment

ballretreiver
Credit: Siebird

Keep your ball close by with this device.

Unless you’ve got an autonomous ball retriever at your disposal, chasing down wayward tennis balls is one of the worst parts of a day at the tennis center. With a simple, well-built ball-returner, however, practice and post-practice cleanup can be a breeze, and you don’t even have to leave the house.

At some point you’ve likely come across a kids toy that is a velcro bracelet attached to an elastic string with a rubber ball on the end; this is that, but for tennis. Fill the base with water or sand, then rally away—opponents are optional.

3. A TopspinPro to perfect your swings

topspin
Credit: Topspin / Getty Images / cscredon

Getting some topspin can help with your accuracy.

The art of applying topspin—a.k.a. the forward rotation of the tennis ball when it's in motion, which can help improve its accuracy—is a vital skill for any would-be tennis player. One handy tool to help you learn how to do it is the TopspinPro training machine.

This tripod holds a spinning ball on a spring-loaded spindle. A slanted back-screen prevents users from swinging down through the ball in a way that would produce a flat shot, and when struck correctly, players should achieve a 75-degree racket angle ideal for a perfect topspin return.

Get the TopspinPro from Amazon for $169

4. Training tools to get a great serve

serve
Credit: TotalServe / OnCourt Offcourt

Work on your serve with one of these tools.

The importance of a good service game can’t be overstated. While a simple device like the ServeMaster may not make you the next Pete Sampras overnight, it should go a long way to getting your errant serve in bounds more consistently.

The molded handle will help you set the correct grip as the weighted ball or balls on the end of the device’s flexible arm train your body to follow a fluid and consistent serving motion while you swing. ServeMaster comes in three sizes, it's portable, and doesn’t require a ball, a racket or a net, making it perfect for practicing tennis on the go.

5. A “coach” that’s available wherever you go

coach
Credit: Billie Jean King's Eye Coach

Billie Jean King—well, her personalized "coach"—helps you keep your eye on the ball.

OK, not an actual coach, but Billie Jean King’s Eye Coach—another portable, tripod-style device aimed at helping players more consistently find the “sweet spot” on the racket. By removing the net from the equation, the Eye Coach allows players to practice 17 types of shots without the distraction of keeping the ball in play. The company claims that this focus on ball striking is key to quickly developing your game, and given King's prolific history in tennis, we’re inclined to take them at their word.

A smaller, junior model of the Eye Coach is also available for younger players.

Get Billie Jean King's Eye Coach from Amazon for $210

6. Some weight on your racket to increase your power

weight
Credit: Getty Images / kosmos111

Adding some weight to your racket can help ramp up your swinging power.

Perhaps you’ve watched a baseball game and noticed players using bat donuts or other styles of weight when taking a practice cut or two in the on-deck circle before stepping to the plate. The same approach can be applied to tennis with one of the many racket weights available to players. The benefits of adding a little weight to your racket during training range from faster swing speeds to better warmups to increased muscle memory.

Adding heft to your racket is simple, whether your weight comes in the form of a neoprene handle sleeve or a band that you put on your wrist. Just pop it on and go on about your shadow swings and other drills as usual.

7. A racket sensor to get smart about your swing

headsensor
Credit: Head

With this sensor, you'll learn more about your serves than you ever thought possible.

Want to learn more about your tennis swing than you ever thought you’d need to know? Then the Head Tennis Sensor is up your alley—or your service line, as it were. Interchangeable and compatible out of the box with many rackets, the sensor connects to your racket handle and tracks every shot as you play, logging data and highlights for further review. The companion app also offers training sessions, practice tracking, 3D serve modeling, and other features to help put all that data to good use.

Buy Head Tennis Sensor from Amazon for $99.95

8. A tripod to film your highlights and improve your game

film
Credit: AmazonBasics / Getty Images / FatCamera

A simple setup can help you film your swings like a pro.

Reviewing footage of a game after it's played is a key part of any top athlete's training regimen. But film study isn't just for the pros—and with a subscription to the SwingVision app for iOS, you can track scores, log workouts, and analyze your swing right from the palm of your hand.

According to its site, SwingVision developed its proprietary technology using guidance from ex-pros Andy Roddick and James Blake, as well as artificial intelligence engineers from Apple and Tesla. In addition to creating highlight videos among other fun features, SwingVision also analyzes your swing to provide practical suggestions and offer at-home drills to strengthen your game. The app, which also syncs with Apple Watch, is free on iOS, however, upgraded subscriptions range from $6.99 per month to $119.99 per year, and a tripod and mount are advised to help you properly set up your camera.

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