Tennis – not as you know it

An enduring source of inspiration, the popularity of tennis has led to a world of variations.

The classic game of a ball, two racquets, a court and a net has spawned many appropriations over the years. While everyone loves a few social sets, there are plenty of ways to hone your skills, work your forearm or just connect racquet to ball off court. Here are a few tennis-inspired activities you can have fun with this summer.

Totem tennis

A backyard summer classic. Who didn’t have a rusty totem tennis set in the garage growing up? Drive it into the grass, dig out those plastic bats and get thwacking. Totem tennis is a great one to play with the kids and helps improve hand-eye coordination. It doesn’t take up too much space and can easily be packed in the car for holidays. In 2006 a Guinness World Record was set for the most people playing totem tennis simultaneously at Lake Paramatta, Sydney. 108 players sliced their way into the record books.

Table tennis

Ping pong, table tennis, wiff-waff… whatever you call it, it’s a whole lot of fun. Originating as a Victorian parlour game in the late 19th century, table tennis has soared in popularity over the years and is now an Olympic sport. Played with a light ball, two paddles, a table and a net, two or four players can have a match and it’s all about lightening quick reflexes and adding some spin. To get in the zone, watch Tom Hanks’ epic double-paddled efforts in Forrest Gump.

Bungee tennis

A bungee tennis ball is simply a ball tied to a long rubber band that you anchor at a particular spot. Using the tension of the elastic to bring the ball back in line, it’s a great way to practise drills and can be used to play a simple one-on-one game. To do this, divide the surface into two halves, anchor the elastic at the halfway mark and have a hit. Make sure the ball bounces in each other’s half before returning the shot.

Mini tennis

Using smaller courts and low compression balls, mini tennis teaches children how to play the game in a modified environment. The balls don’t bounce as high or travel as fast, making it easier to cover the court and return shots. It’s a great way for beginners to develop their skills before graduating to a full-sized court.

Tennis on a plane?

The prize for the most unique take on tennis has to go to Ivan Unger and Gladys Roy, members of the famous group of daredevil “wing-walkers” from the 1920s, the 13 Black Cats. In an iconic 1925 image taken by an unidentified photographer, the two thrill-seekers staged a tennis match on the upper wing of a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane while in flight. Now that’s a tense game!

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