What’s a tennis hoop?

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The problem of managing multiple tennis balls during matches and lessons has led to various inventions, including the traditional wire basket and a new sling worn over the shoulder. However, the wire basket remains popular despite a range of alternatives, including modified shopping carts and new designs that eliminate curvature. These new designs can be heavy and cause strain, leading to a new dimension of “tennis elbow.”

The problem with tennis balls has always been that there are so many of them. During tournaments, tennis lessons, and even casual matches with friends, keeping up with a dozen or more balls can sometimes get as taxing as trying to hit them past an opponent. Naturally, therefore, the “tennis basket” has been at the center of a wide range of inventions and variations.

The idea, somewhat paradoxically, given that people play tennis for exercise, is to make it easier to pick up wayward tennis balls with as little effort as possible. A tennis hoop has been mentioned since the time of Shakespeare, when he described a “basket of balls” being handed to Henry V. Of course, the king no doubt had servants to fill his basket for him.

A recent invention that could possibly pose a challenge to the tennis hoop is a sling worn over the shoulder in such a way as to keep a dozen balls within easy reach without hindering your shot. Yet while this might work well for club players, it’s too hollow a thrill for the professional teaching a dozen students at a time. Therefore, after four decades, the traditional wire basket remains a fixture on most fields.

An internet search of tennis hoops reveals a bewildering assortment, with holding capacities ranging from 25 balls to 350 and equally varied price points. One company is offering what appears to be a slightly modified shopping cart for $350 US dollars. Former Grand Slam hero Pete Sampras champions another product with a different look but a similar drawback: You need to walk and bend over to fill it.

This problem has given rise to a new generation of tennis baskets that aim to eliminate the curvature by configuring the wire mesh so that the tennis balls tuck into the basket when the basket is pressed down on them. Works fine until the basket starts filling up. Lifting and pushing down on a 35-pound tennis hoop could give “tennis elbow” a new dimension.

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