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The problem with tennis balls has always been that there are so many of them. During tournaments, tennis classes and even casual matches among friends, keeping up with a dozen or more balls can sometimes become as much work as trying to hit them past an opponent. Naturally, then, the "tennis basket" has been the focus of a wide range of inventions and variations.
The idea -- somewhat paradoxically, given the fact that people play tennis for exercise -- is to facilitate the gathering of wayward tennis balls with as little effort as possible. A tennis basket was mentioned as far back as Shakespeare's time, when he described a "basket of balls" being delivered to Henry V. Of course, the king no doubt had servants to fill his basket for him.
One recent invention which may eventually pose a challenge to the tennis basket is a sling worn over the shoulder in such a way as to keep a dozen or so balls within reach without impeding the stroke. Yet while this might work well for the club players, it is too empty a quiver for the professional who is teaching a dozen students at a time. Therefore, after four decades, the traditional wire basket remains a fixture on most courts.
An Internet search for tennis basket reveals a bewildering assortment, with containment capacities ranging from 25 balls to 350 and equally diverse prices. One company offers what appears to be a slightly modified grocery store shopping cart for $350 US Dollars. Former Grand Slam hero Pete Sampras endorses another product with a different look but similar disadvantage -- it is necessary to walk and stoop to fill it.
This problem has given rise to a new generation of tennis baskets that aim to eliminate stooping by configuring the wire mesh so that tennis balls will squeeze through and into the basket when the basket is pushed down on them. This works well until the basket begins to fill. Lifting and pushing down on a 35-pound tennis basket could give "tennis elbow" a new dimension.
I prefer the wire tennis baskets because you can just place the basket on top of a ball on the court and press down. The ball is then forced into the basket through the space between the wire bars on the bottom of the basket. You never have to bend to pick up the balls and it's easy to carry the basket because of the long handle, which you also don't have to bend to reach even when the basket is on the ground.
When the article mentioned a tennis ball container that looked like a shopping cart basket I had to laugh. I immediately thought of a conversation I heard between one of my tennis coaches and his assistant coach when I was in high school.
The head coach was asking the assistant whether the assistant could get a shopping cart from a connection he had at the shopping center. At that time, I had not seen a shopping cart used as a ball holder, so I didn't know what the conversation was all about.
When I saw the basket on the courts filled with tennis balls the next week I figured it out. Actually, the cart worked well because it held a large number of balls and it was easily moved about the court.
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