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Tennis trainer for one.

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      04.11.2000 02:24
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      A brilliant gem of an idea. Solo Tennis is the Name, and unsurprisingly, tennis IS the game. Here’s an extract from the official website: · “practice your tennis skills without the need for a partner, tennis court, backboard or ball machine · learn the basics of tennis · develop hand/eye coordination · improve your stamina, strength, form and timing · learn to hit the "sweet spot" on your tennis racket · practice your serves, forehands, backhands, and lobs while having continuous volleys · get a good aerobic workout · warm up while waiting for a court · spend more time hitting the ball and less time chasing it · play a simulated tennis match against your silent partner......any time, any place” All talk, and all absolutely true! This is one product that DELIVERS! First, a bit of background history. If you think back to the late seventies and early eighties, the idea of practising tennis came into the mainstream due to a couple of reasons. Firstly and most obviously, the frequent and awesome contests between the likes of Borg, McEnroe and Connors, and the upset that Mr Ash had over Connors at Wimbledon. But there was also the invention of that thing – you know, THAT THING! There was that pole that you stuck in the middle of your back garden, with a corkscrew-like top-end, on where you attached a cord, on the end of which was a tennis ball. This would allow you (and/or a friend) to take huge whacks on the ball (with one’s racquet) without the worry of smashing neighbours’ {or more importantly your mum’s} windows. At the time it was massive – it meant that any Joe or Jane Bloggs could practice tennis in the comfort of their own back garden without a tennis court. Loads of ads on the tellie. But the reality of the matter was {and it is especially noticeable nowadays} that the range o
      f shots and capabilities of this equipment was extremely limited. Furthermore, as a simulation of a real tennis game (on a court) the shots you’d play were unrealistic. I mean, in a tennis match you’d play a stroke to primarily get it over the net IN FRONT of you. Very rarely, if ever, would you take a sideways strike of the ball as if it were on the end of a string arcing round a pole. (This would invariably lead to you having to stop to sort out the tangles). That’s the history. What do I have to now harp on about? Solo Tennis. Solo Tennis builds, and more importantly improves, on the concept of a tennis aid. The product is a bit dated now, but that said, I hardly see it anywhere in the UK sports shops – It’s everywhere in the US – how slow are we? It has a very superficial resemblance to the eighties back garden ‘toy’, but is far better in its execution. Essentially, it is a tennis ball, attached to an elastic bungee cord, which is in turn attached to a bag of sand {or stones in my case}. The result is that if you take the ball and whack it in with a proper tennis stroke, it will shoot off in the desired direction, recoil due to the elastic, bounce on the ground in front of you, and sit up perfect for your next stroke – Ingenious! You no longer have to rely on having a practice partner. I’ve had people {and indeed audiences} say to me that it defies physics – a ball launched 50 mph going in one direction, next second returning in the opposite direction: I’m not surprised. This is of course way more realistic than a ball following the arc of a cord attached to a glorified peg in the ground. {I am sure that older people than myself, who fancied themselves a bit of a tennis whiz just cos they used this ancient design, ended up rocketing balls over an actual court’s boundaries precisely because that a
      ncient ‘toy’ was so crap in it’s alleged tennis simulation}. Solo tennis means that you don’t even need soft earth in which to bury a peg. You can literally take it anywhere – even on a tennis court. You could quite literally play a game of tennis on your own, and not have to bend over and pick up a ball – it always comes back. Nitty gritty. I got my set: a plastic cylinder containing the special tennis ball {special in that it has a built-in tiny strap on which you tie the bungee cord}, two elastic cords, and a purple sand sac (sand not included). Instructions were included on its use and importantly the knots that you need to use to connect every thing reliably together. I got it from the Innovations catalogue in 1992. Sadly, it’s no longer stocked in the catalogue. The price at the time was £4.99 – I was a kid at the time, so that seemed like quite a bit, but if you can find it at that price, my advice is get a few – it’s that good. Ok, now for a few reasons and drawbacks (of which there are only a few). Its good because: Apart from what I’ve already mentioned. You can really REALLY practice your powerful groundstrokes. If you strike the ball with your backhand, the trajectory taken and the ensuing recoil means the next stroke will fall plum into your forehand’s range. Because of this, you CAN actually play two-player, with one implementing forehand shots, and the other implementing backhands. I say ‘powerful’ groundstrokes – I mean strong flat or top-spun shots. These ensure the ball returns and bounces with adequate height for the subsequent shot. Slice shots, with the added weight of the elastic cord, mean that the ball dies on hitting the ground – not ideal if you want to prevent nasty scratches on yo racquet. But that’s NOT altogether a bad thing. Most novices naturally slice on the
      backhand side, so encouraging the top-spin or flat back hand stroke is an advantage. Also, because of the trailing elastic cord, playing on a surface like grass is a bit difficult. Unless the grass is mowed extremely short, then the blades really hinder the cord, and the ball ends up bouncing even lower (and balls bounce low on grass at the best of times – apart from Wimbledon on a hot day it seems). It does work a treat on concrete and on tennis courts. The length of the cord fully extended (though not stretched) is just a bit less than the length of half a tennis court, so it can give a good simulation of match practice. This is good to practice shot technique. To practice shot power, you can attached the second elastic court to extend the length. You need to add more power to make the elastic recoil enough for the ball to return. If you can do so while keeping the ball in play on the other side of a court, then you’ve sussed the power play. You don’t generally have to worry about tangles in play. The only time when tangles may be frequent is when you’re taking the device out of the storage cylinder. (Tangles may be a little more frequent when you are using both elastic cords attached to each other). What you MAY have to worry about, needless to say, are trees and overhead cables, as well as cars and bystanders {fool be they to stand in the way}. One notable downside is that it does not really allow you to practice serving. If you try to serve, you are hampered by the elastic cord getting in the way of your arc, and also, the ball physically doesn’t go as high in the air due to the weight of the trailing cord. To compensate for the cord’s weight will probably cause more harm than good cos you may end up throwing the ball too high in a real game or just have your ball-toss timing messed. Also, the added power of the serve can cause the sandbag to move, and thus mess up the bal
      ls’ return. (The sandbag normally doesn’t move when doing ordinary groundstrokes – if it does, then you are probably hitting the ball to hard, and that power, if transposed to a real court would cause the ball to go out of play). (All that said, there’s no harm trying serves – I don’t bother cos I hit very hard – I’ve never tried slice and spin-ridden serves – maybe I should). Drawing on a few of the points I made earlier, I’ll give you a personal example. Before Solo Tennis, during the winter months, I used to get on court (no one had the guts to join me in the wind, snow and rain) and practice my serve – which was about all you could do. {Got almost as much exercise picking balls up as I did striking them}. Consequently in matches, my serve was a very potent weapon, and made the rest of my game a matter of sweeping up the pieces following that shot, and trying to get lucky on the opposition serve. With Solo tennis, I didn’t feel the need to go down to the courts. In my garden, I used it and developed my groundstrokes, which have subsequently become very difficult for opponents to deal with. In match situations now, my serve takes a great deal of time to work, and even when it does, it’s not as strong as it used to be. However, the rest of my game is much more solid, and despite the loss of service power, I feel I’m a better player overall (especially when my serve sporadically reaches similar strengths to the past – practice as always is key). Now let me explain why you ought to get a few packs. The ball and the elastic cords have a finite lifespan. After a few weeks play, you may notice a few splits in the elastic – the end is not far away. The pack comes with two elastic cords, so you can still get a lot of play. The ball too (as I have found to my cost) can split with time. That’s not to say that it is poor quality
      . The rubber is extremely thick (as I can see first hand due to the split) and there is a very thick layer of fur on the ball. It’s perfectly designed for long term and frequent usage, but it is not immortal. {Putting things in some perspective, I’ve had one set since ’92, and only since 1998 did I play with a tremendous frequency – so it does last. The airtight cylinder keeps the rubber of the cords and ball fresh and healthy in periods of non-use}. Also, if you buy a set of tennis balls, you don’t buy just one – you buy at least a pack of three. So if you’re lucky enough to find any sets, two or three is not a bad number to get. The UK Company that used to ship the product did sell replacement parts, but generally at expensive rates, for instance £4 for one ball, £10 for three, and £1.50 for cords. This bearing in mind that I got my entire set for a fiver – awesomeness w.r.t. value! (Please note however that I can no longer contact UK firm that traded this product. They (Sports Pal T/A MSI (GB) Ltd.) gave their details on the instructions sheet, but are no longer contactable – I’ve tried. I have since mailed the links on the US website I alluded to earlier, and am awaiting response. I’ll provide updates as and when I get any.) At the moment I am really suffering withdrawal due the absence of Solo tennis, because of the split ball. It has meant that I have had to do some creative jiggery-pokery with an ordinary tennis ball encompassed in a tangerine-net, attached to my remaining elastic cord and the sandbag. Crude but EVEN THAT works! So to finally sum up {I hear you gasp a collective sigh of relief}, I reckon that Solo Tennis is a fantastic sports aid. Its availability should be made more widespread in the UK to encourage closet tennis enthusiasts that may take up the game more seriously {and the patents to smile more broadly}. If the US can do i
      t, why can’t we? As I said before, they have the thing everywhere. If you can find it for the same sort of price that I did, it’s an absolute bargain, and way better in every sense than that ball on a glorified peg, which is still available incidentally {is this the dark ages or what?} in places like Argos and Index. Importantly, it is even more fun than that decrepit monstrosity of a ‘toy’. With Solo Tennis, provided you’re on concrete, you can hit it as hard or as soft as you want – ideal for kids, and good enough for pro’s. For those of those of you that have stuck with me throughout this less than minor monsterpiece, I thank you. But the only reason I make things this long is that I have STRONG opinions about my products. Looking at my account, I haven’t written that many – but the quality (and with that the length) have been fairly good and large respectively. Not bad attributes I suggest, though some may have difficulties in maintaining focus unless they are particularly interested in the product in question.. As a final literary insertion, if anyone knows where spare parts (or even the entire set) is stocked in London (NW preferably), please let me know. Merci Beaucoup.


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