For players just starting out, the initial purchases of a racket, gear, apparel, shoes, etc. can really add up. Even us well-seasoned players experience sticker shock. But if you’re a savvy shopper, you can hit the courts looking like a pro but for a whole lot less!
Here are our tips on how you can play the game you love without breaking the bank.
If you’re a newbie, we advise against purchasing the expensive rackets the pros use. Sure, they’re awesome rackets, but you don’t need a $200+ racket to learn how to play tennis. Tennis Express has some great beginner rackets like this one for $22 by Wilson. It even comes pre-strung so you won’t have the added expense of stringing. And if you’d still rather start out with a high-end racket, or are looking to upgrade without giving up your first born, you can always shop the sales online. Most retailers offer killer deals like these in their sale or discontinued sections.
If you purchase a pre-strung racket, then you’re set for a while, but eventually, you will need to have it re-strung. Nylon/synthetic strings can be purchased for less than $10 and are perfect for beginners. Some good brands are Gamma, Wilson, Prince, HEAD, and Babolat. Add in a labor charge of around $15 per racket and you’re looking at a $25 total cost.
Obviously, you can’t play tennis without balls, which retail for about $4.00 per can. Tennis balls tend to go flat pretty quickly, so a good way to save is by purchasing them in bulk. Amazon has a 12-can case of Penn regular duty tennis balls for only $37 (including FREE shipping!) For serve practice and playing with friends (NOT league!) you can also purchase pressureless tennis balls which can last well over a year. Amazon has many different brands and ball-counts to choose from, like this 48-count bucket from Penn for only $39.99 (including FREE shipping.) One thing to note about the pressureless balls is that they feel heavier and have less of a bounce than the regular balls.
Racket cover/tennis bag.
Even beginners need to keep their rackets protected, and there are many inexpensive options from which to choose. A racket cover is just that. It protects your racket, but has no place to store balls or any other accessories you may need. A racket bag, on the other hand, protects your racket (or rackets) and has room for everything else you might need on the court. They come in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns as well. IMHO, Amazon is THE place to shop because they have literally everything and at all price points.
The pros are paid sponsorship fees to wear the expensive brands, and if you can wait for the sales, you can get the same outfits for SO much less from the big online retailers like Tennis Express and Tennis Warehouse and Midwest Sports. But if you need an outfit or two to hold you over until then, Walmart (online) has a surprisingly large collection of inexpensive tennis apparel including brand names like Diadora, Nike, and Bolle.
Yes, you need TENNIS shoes in order to play tennis. Not only do they have a special sole that won’t scuff or leave marks on the court surface, but they offer the best support for your feet as they run you from side to side and up and back. Personally, I would not go super cheap here, as those shoes won’t last as long, nor will they have good enough support. Tennis Express has a fantastic sale going on right now, with over 2 dozen name-brand tennis shoes under $50…and that’s just for the ladies! Don’t worry guys…they have plenty for you too! You can also find great deals on Amazon.com.
Most players start out playing with friends, and what can be more fun than that, right? But without proper instruction, players will eventually develop bad habits along with bad form, both of which will hinder your game and potentially cause injuries. This applies to those of us who have been playing for years, too. An occasional lesson or two with a pro will tune up your strokes and help keep you at the top of your game.
It’s true that private lessons are costly, but you can get in on semi-private lessons and group drills either at your local club or tennis facility and through private instructors (Google those in your area.) That way, you’re still getting the instruction, but you’ll be able to split the cost with the rest of the group. Most cities or counties offer reasonably priced private and group tennis instruction on their public courts, too.