Games for two suit me temperamentally more than full-on team sports. And I particularly like to practise alone. I’m manically competitive, but the idea of honing tennis skills, for example, with AN Other at the opposite end of the court is wholly unsatisfactory. If they are better than me, it’s a drag for them and embarrassing for me. If they are worse (which is unlikely, unless they are about six years old), it’s a drag for me.
I was an average Scrabble player until the (now, weirdly, discontinued) EA Scrabble app came along and I was able to play my phone obsessively until I got reasonably OK. You can’t play tennis on your phone, though. The best way to intensively self-coach is a tennis-ball machine – but these tend to be huge ball-launching beasts more suitable for clubs than for lone wolves. Which is why this new Slinger Bag is wowing players who just want to get on quietly and privately getting better.
It’s portable – like a medium-sized, 15kg shopping trolley – and powered by a rechargeable battery, which gives up to five hours of ball flinging. And it’s also designed to suit a wide range of playing standards, from beginner to advanced: capable of holding up to 144 balls, firing them at you from two to 10 seconds apart and at speeds of up to 72.5kph. There’s also a useful ball-boy mode that lobs balls to you from courtside, so you can practise your serve.
I took the Slinger Bag out to a suitably quiet court. It was the best fun I’ve had with a tech product in a long time, as well as being genuinely effective. The machine launches balls with minimum drama and a satisfying phut sound. The one downside, not the machine’s fault, is that within minutes the court is spattered with what looks like a rash of yellow measles. Picking them all up repeatedly, especially in 30 degrees and high humidity, was less fun. So some kind of ball-collection system is essential. Google “tennis ball retriever” to see lots of options.
Slinger Bag, from £780, slingerbaguk.frameworksports.com
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