Usually when a tennis product performs well, the community takes quick note of it.
Some hidden gems, however, go under-appreciated for one reason or another. Whether its down to marketing or too niche a target audience, some products simply don’t do as well as others, despite their top-tier performance.
It’s those products that can be the difference between finding something that’s just good enough, and finding the perfect fit.
Let's take a look at our top 5 hidden gems in store/online now.
Tourna Original XL “Tourna Grip”
The first few days of March were beautiful in Vancouver, finished off by a weekend with temperatures soaring into the low teens. The warm weather and the summer sun come as a blessing to tennis aficionados, but also bring about a major change in playing conditions: sweat (and a lot of it).
Unfortunately, gravity tends to bring beads of sweat down tennis players’ arms and onto their hands, causing the single most important contact point to become slippery, uncomfortable and wet. That’s where Tourna Original XL comes into its own.
While it may be a bit of a stretch to call Tourna Grip a “hidden gem,” it does remain a fairly niche product, with the amateur and casual tennis population not all that familiar with its secret powers.
What makes this iconic blue grip so good?
Chalky and gritty to the touch, the surface of Tourna Grip actually requires some moisture to feel secure in the hand. Dry, the grip may slip and tear but add just the slightest bit of sweat and the surface will activate, almost like a shammy skin, and stay comfortably grippy, performing better and better the more sweat it absorbs. Some players think the answer to a slipping grip is stickiness, usually that is wrong. A sticky grip will become an ice rink with the slightest bit of sweat. The grit and chalk of Tourna Original XL really is the perfect solution and has been the choice of so many high level players for so long.
Head Graphene 360+ Extreme Tour
The Head Extreme Tour flew under the radar upon the release of the Graphene 360+ edition of the Extreme lineup. The model was new to the line and, quite frankly, a bit random considering the user-friendly, extremely spiny and powerful history of the Head Extreme.
The Extreme MP and Pro built on the line’s M.O. in maintaining their 100 square inch head sizes, thick beams, forgiving nature and spin technologies, but the Extreme Tour provides something very different. The racket features a 98 square inch head, a softer flex, and, most importantly, an oscillating beam thickness that drops all the way to a very thin 21 millimetres in the throat. That thin throat is somewhat of a rarity in the tennis world, but it allows the Extreme Tour with a relatively thick hoop to flex significantly more in that throat, creating more feel, a longer dwell time, and ultimately, a significantly more controlled response than is expected from a racket with so much pop.
The racket does stay true to the Extreme identity, maintaining certain spin elements like the open 16x19 string pattern and spin grommets. As such, it’s certainly a racket that comes into its own when used with a lot of spin, but it also provides a more nuanced, touch-oriented feel not generally associated with rackets marketed under the Extreme name. It’s the perfect frame for those players only willing to sacrifice a little of their tweeners’ spin potential, but want to explore the benefits of a more precise and controlled players’ racket.
Solinco Tour Bite
Shaped polyesters have been around for nearly two decades and have become ever more popular amongst big hitting, modern tennis players. They take all the spin, control and durability benefits of polyesters, and add a sharp, biting shape to the monofilament construction. While Solinco Tour Bite was one of the true pioneers in the world of shaped polys, it has recently taken a back seat to the more flashy strings that have since been released. But Tour Bite remains one of the best strings in this category. It may not have the neon green attraction of Hyper G or the rampant pro tour popularity of RPM Blast, but its performance is certainly up there with the best.
Solinco Tour Bite is stiff for a shaped polyester, making it more controlled than some of its softer shaped competitors. The square shape is also extremely sharp and really bites into a ball that launches off the stringbed with massive amounts of spin; a different sensation to that of RPM Blast, one of its main competitors, that produces most of its spin from the strings sliding and snapping back into place.
One of the main attractions for Solinco Tour Bite is its variety of gauges (thicknesses). While most will opt for Tour Bite 17 or 16L (1.20 mm and 1.25 mm respectively), there are plenty of options on each side of these best sellers. For a more spiny, softer, but less durable setup, try 18, 19 or even 20 gauge, and if you’re looking for maximum life out of your string and a dead, controlled response, try 16 gauge. Experimenting with different string gauges is key in finding the best polyester for you, and will ultimately amplify the performance of any polyester string.
Yonex Power Cushion Sonicage 2
At this point, everyone knows Yonex for their square shaped tennis rackets. The Isometric head design jumps out more than most frames on any tennis wall, but the Japanese brand is also making fantastic shoes.
While the Eclipsion 3 represents the brand's flagship “pro tour” level shoe, it’s the Sonicage 2 that jumped out at me as a true gem in the brand’s lineup.
The shoe is built on a solid, grippy outsole that will stand the test of time, but also remain responsive and supportive during the powerful lateral cuts tennis shoes undergo every session. The upper is also extremely comfortable and natural fitting. The woven mesh material is flexible and breathable right out the box, and after breaking in, adapts seamlessly to almost any foot shape.
The Yonex Sonicage is built on a last with a wider forefoot and a narrower mid foot/heal area. This anatomical shape may not work for everyone, (no shoe does), but is built in such a way that it accommodates a very large variety of foot shapes.
The Sonicage also comes in a “wide” width; something that should be available in all tennis shoes, but for whatever reason, isn’t. Coming in at $159.98 CAD, the Sonicage is also one of those “best bang for your buck” products, as it’s one of the least expensive top-end shoes currently available.
When looking for a ball, us tennis players tend to focus on three important factors; playability, consistency, and durability. There’s one, far more important element we should probably place our focus upon; sustainability.
Tennis balls are notorious for being one of sports’ most unsustainable pieces of equipment as they are nearly impossible to recycle, and end up going to waste, sometimes after just one use. Once popped out of the can, they lose pressure quickly and can go soft only a few days after their first hit.
In developing the Triniti, Wilson created a ball that requires no pressurized can, but rather a core three times as thick to achieve the desired bounce. This all-new core makes the Triniti not just the only tennis ball to be sold in a recyclable, cardboard box, but also a ball that will outlast its pressurized competitors.
You can play with the Triniti beyond any normal amount of time you could play on your old tennis balls. They’ll be good until the felt wears off. In terms of playability, the Triniti is like any other tennis ball; some will swear by it, others, maybe after one bad hit, will say it’s the worst ball in the world. It plays no more differently to a US Open, as a Pro Penn Marathon does to a Dunlop Australian Open; it’s a normal tennis ball.
The one quirky characteristic of the Triniti is its unique “thwack” on contact. The ball can sound somewhat dead when launching off the stringbed, but what’s a slightly different sound when you could be helping make tennis stand the test of time.
While keeping your tennis setup consistent is ultimately the best way to improve your game, sometimes going out of your comfort zone to try different products can enhance your experience with the game, and ultimately lead you to finding something better suited to your needs.