26 April

What's in your racket bag?

You have the racket and can of balls, but what else should the well-prepared tennis player have in their racket bag?  We have the definitive dos and don'ts of packing for an on-court victory!

All time record-holder Jimmy Connors famously carried letters from his grandmother (and sometime coach) in his racket bag. As he said,“I carried notes from her in my socks, and I read them before every match." For Roger Federer, you would be surprised there was much room for anything else once he has crammed in his nine rackets but you never quite know what you might find. Dominik Hrbaty once pulled out a collection of male figurines - voodoo doll was the best guess of the newspaper that reported the incident.

If you doubt the importance of getting your equipment right, check out the Tools of the Trade chapter in Brad Gilbert's classic, Winning Ugly: "The serious player wants to ensure not only that the equipment they bring to a match helps them, but that it doesn't hurt them..."

Here's our list of dos and don'ts.

Do include 

A second racket... if your strings break you could end up forfeiting the match. Don't worry too much if it's an ancient relic of your early days of playing. Sometimes an old friend will come to the rescue!

Tennis balls... because you don't want to be the one relying on your opponent

Water... obvious, but easy to forget. Getting dehydrated is quite dangerous and could certainly lose you the match

Energy drink... A recent study suggested that a sports energy drink could actually improve performance and psychologically it could give you the edge

Food... no need to go over the top unless your tennis match is one of your three-square meals of the day. But an easy-to-digest energy bar, a banana or our current favourite, dried dates, will give you a boost when you reach that tricky third set

First aid... OK, let's not assume the worst, but even a small finger cut can make a match an awkwardly bloodthirsty affair. A support bandage and a few ibuprofen could also come in handy

Overgrip... Yes we know you haven't changed your grip for nearly two years, but you will find your game immeasurably improved when the racket stops flying out of your hand. See our HEAD grip competition here

Vibration dampeners... If you use them, you lose them. Keep a spare in your bag

A change of top... Nothing makes you feel more like a pro than having a clean, dry shirt for a third set. And as Alize Cornet proved at the US Open, what goes for the boys goes for the girls too

A towel... Don't panic, it's not quite a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy thing, but a towel is essential kit. Think sweat, drying courts, swiping at wasps, throwing at ball-kids - there are just so many reasons a tennis player needs a towel

A cap... Even if you don't usually wear one, strange courts, strange lights and low-level sun can make a cap invaluable

Sun glasses... as above, dude

Tissues ...invaluable for removing grit from your eye, wiping your glasses, copying with hayfever and generally mopping your brow

Small change... You may have to pay your opponent for the court, or be in desperate need of a cup of tea. Don't be caught short

Dry hand powder .. Sweaty palms are the enemy of great tennis but hard to avoid in hot weather. There are lots of powders, wipes and even anti-perspirants on the market for clammy hands

Your opponent list... Sure you have all those contacts in your phone, but there is nothing quite like having a written record of who you are playing and how to contact them if you are running late

Pen and paper... for taking notes, keeping score or writing your player memoirs

A book... For inspiration or simply to keep you amused if you are forced to wait for an opponent

Lucky mascot... Well why not? Enough of the pros keep a lucky charm so why not include yours!
 

Leave out

Old balls... It is the tennis player's equivalent of the motorists old airfresheners. They are of no use if they are flat and unplayable and just take up valuable space. That said, do keep a can of opened playable balls. If you are kept waiting you can use these for serving practice or to bribe enthusiastic dogs to mooch elsewhere

Ring pulls... Unless you are keen to prove you were right to bring the first aid kit, don't put these lethally sharp can openers back in your bag. As you are scrabbling for your sunglasses, you are bound to cut yourself

Last week's banana... or any other food that is likely to be quietly composting. 

Leaves, twigs insects and other debris... It's park tennis but you don't have to take the park with you. Emptying your bag once in a while is a bug-friendly thing to do.