I’m not just referring to your mental and physical preparation. Instead, I’m talking about your equipment. You know, the stuff in your tennis bag – things like extra rackets, wristbands and towels. They’re as much a part of your arsenal as your strokes, your concentration, your footwork.
A little story should illustrate exactly how important your equipment is:
I need to share a dream – actually, let’s call it a nightmare – I had a few years ago.
I’m down 5 games to 4 in the 3rd and final set – serving to stay in the match – and I break a string at deuce. Now down match point, I rush to my tennis bag, which turns out to be one of those large dark green trashbags. Among the items inside: a May 1975 issue of Sports Illustrated (not much help); an empty carton of milk (again, of not much value to me); and 64 Kit Kat chocolate bars and 32 cans of Mountain Dew (remember it’s a dream). The only extra racket I find is strung quite loosely (about 29 pounds of tension); it’s like going into battle with a butterfly net.
By the way, I failed to mention that it’s hot, about a thousand degrees blanketed by a gazillion percent humidity. And my towel and wristband are soaked. Indeed, there’s a fairly large puddle (a small lake, really) of my perspiration on one side of the court, the result of my wringing out the towel and wristband during the previous changeover.
Still, my wristband is so heavy with sweat that it’s like wearing a shot put on my forearm. My tennis hat also is soaked with perspiration, so much so that’s it’s like balancing a 5-pound iron cooking pot on my noggin’. There are, of course, no extra towels, hats or wristbands in my “tennis bag.’’
And there’s no one around from whom to borrow such items. I’m on Court 68, about a mile and a half from the tournament clubhouse. My opponent refuses to provide aid and comfort to the enemy, which is I. And no one – repeat, no one – is watching this scintillating match.
Anyway, I’m now ready to play match point, armed with that butterfly net of a racket and Patrick Ewing-type sweat pouring.
Fast forward. I attempt a big kick second serve, but the drenched racket flies out of my hand, tomahawking toward a nearby tree whereupon it nearly decapitates an unsuspecting squirrel. Oh the horror — a frightened rodent sprinting willy-nilly across my court. Aghast, I awaken, realizing it’s only just a dream.
Folks, don’t let this happen to you. Go into battle prepared. Here’s a list of some of the key items you might need to store inside your tennis bag (And remember, you don’t need one of those huge bags that a Roger Federer, Andy Roddick or Serena Williams use – those things are spacious enough to carry a family of four):
*several rackets (strung at a tension you like and with proper grips)
*wristbands (and possibly headbands)
*sports drinks and/or water (don’t assume there are water fountains or coolers near the court)
*sunglasses (for glare)
*energy bars (or bananas)
*extra shirts (maybe even extra shorts)
*extra shoes (and socks and shoelaces)
*band aids and/or adhesive tape (for blisters and such)
And, feel free if you like to throw in an old magazine.