Gear

Q. Many times I have seen a male player double over in agony after a fast ball hit him below the belt. Is it advisable to wear a 'cup'? Are there special cups designed for tennis or those used in baseball/football should suffice (note that tennis involves more running)?

A. Believe it or not, my high school coach (Russ Struble, of Council Rock in Newtown, PA) actually advised his doubles players to wear protective cups. To my knowledge, nobody did. Nor do any professional players.

Instead of wearing a cup, you might learn to protect your body with the “defend yourself” volley. What is that? It is where you use the backhand side of the racquet face to defend your entire body by flaring your hitting elbow out to the side. With this action, you can capably protect your entire body.

Q. Why is it that you rarely see professional tennis players wear sunglasses in tournaments?

A. The easy answer would be that professional players do not believe that they see the ball as well when they wear sunglasses. In fact, if they saw the ball more clearly, then more players would DEFINITELY be wearing shades while they compete.

There is another viewpoint, and I hope that I do not sound too cynical, but… it might have a little to do with endorsement money. If a sunglass company agreed to throw a LOT of dough at a player, my strong suspicion is that player would wear sunglasses more frequently unless, of course, it actually hindered performance.

Q. When purchasing tennis shoes - do you buy a size up? Every pair of tennis shoes I buy always blackens my big toe – How do I prevent this?

A. Most tournament players wear two pairs of socks when they play. This adds another layer of cushion, but it also diminishes the friction between sock and skin. The layers of socks rub together instead.

Another idea is to put some Vaseline on your toes, and other vulnerable spots on your feet, prior to playing.

When purchasing tennis sneakers, make sure that they are large enough to allow for some space between your toes and the end of the shoe. Also, remember that in hot weather your feet will swell a bit, so a bigger shoe size will feel more comfortable.

Q. Do you wear gloves? Because whenever I play I get blisters on my thumb.

A. I do not wear gloves on a tennis court, if that is what you are asking.

Cliff Drysdale, the famous ESPN commentator, used to wear a golf-style glove when he played in the early 1970’s. He signed a contract for a few thousand dollars to endorse this “tennis glove,” otherwise I suspect that he would NOT have worn it.

If you are struggling with blisters, than use an over-grip (like TournaGrip, for example). Also, play more. Before long, your blisters will become hardened calluses and this will no longer be an issue for you.

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