TopCourt Gold Membership and Priceless Memories

TopCourt Gold Membership: On-Court Experience

Here is our behind-the-scenes experience with TopCourt. Brought to you exclusively, we take fans behind the lens to see how the movie magic happens.
Miami TopCourt Trip Photos

My Gold Member fans will have a chance to join me and some amazing pros at a future filming event when upgrading to the Gold Membership here.

Tennis pros filmed during the week in March at a private Miami residence include:

TopCourt's Class of 2021
  • Alexander and Mischa Zverev
  • Bianca Andreescu
  • Felix Auger Aliassime
  • Grigor Dimitrov
  • Francis Tiafoe
  • Brandon Nakashima

Major highlights of the TopCourt Filming Trip

  • Watching tennis pros demonstrate their tennis skills from a few feet away
  • Enjoy a catered lunch and chat with new pros and their coaches each day
  • Take close-up photos and videos plus selfies on set plus get autographed memorabilia
  • Meet and greet with the pros' families, coaches, and their entourages
  • Rally on the center court using one Head touring pro's racquets (including a pro stock model)
  • Photos of my Miami tennis experience - Miami in March - food, fun, and friends
I can say hands down that the TopCourt On-Court Gold experience is worth many times more than any seat you can buy elsewhere. Especially if you are traveling from out of state or it is for a special occasion. I would rival it as a better bargain than even luxury box seats at the US Open. Comparing it to the Miami Open 2021, there was no comparison at all. Each day there were at least two different pros.

Without a player's escort or media credential, TopCourt is the closest anyone can get to the full fan experience in tennis with a campus of professionals and their coaches.

Interview with Alexander Zverev

As a film fan of Netflix, I loved seeing the director's perspective from behind the lens. TopCourt's team and crew are creating educational entertainment in real-time and improvise on the fly. TopCourt producers all ask the questions that Gold Membership fans want to hear. You see all the action live and unedited. All the bloopers, outtakes, and intimate moments.
Felix Auger Aliassime (FAA)

Racket autographed and donated by FAA


Grigor Dimitrov shows off his juggling skills

Tiafoe and Andreescu share the same talent agency at Octagon Tennis.

Bianca Andreescu and the author


Go for Gold! - if you want a chance to meet the pros

Benefits of getting the Gold Membership Package:

  • Lifetime experience event opportunities: (extra purchase) to go to attend the live filming.
  • Double the Gold Court points: allows user to buy autographed items from the pros and bid on the Lifetime experiences via raffles
  • Early access to "bonus" content: a nice-to-have incentive that mirror’s Disney+. Being able to "unlock" new content early.
  • Preferred Response Time on questions for the pros: I have not personally tried this feature. If you have questions for upcoming stars, I think this would be an excellent way to do Q&A.

Lifetime Experience Packages

Advantages

  • Saving time from roaming around the courts searching for the pro
  • Better high-end value than most VIP tennis tournament tickets
  • Getting the 1on1 time to ask questions, take selfies, and more (I got an autograph from Alex Zverev. I told him I use the same Head Gravity Pro rackets and his insignia dampeners)
  • Getting the invaluable selfies or autographs that so many wait hours to get a chance

  • Share a catered lunch with the pros (we usually ate around 1-2pm)
  • Feeling the full immersion with the players and coaches and family.
  • Attend AM and/or PM sessions - offering a balance of both documentary interviews and action drills filming on the set.
  • Comfortable and luxurious settings with food, refreshments, and A/C for guests
  • Fixed schedule and time frame - having only a few hours or days, you really maximize your time instead of hanging around practice courts at a tournament hoping to get lucky.
  • Seeing a full-scale filming production take place.

    I'm a fan of Netflix and was really neat to see how the director orchestrates a whole production crew, drones, rovers, sound, lighting, and multiple cameras to make each TopCourt episode possible.
Lights, camera, action!  TopCourt filming on location

Costs

  • Variable Expenses (Price? availability? dates?)
  • Variety of player rosters (ATP and WTA) - so you may not have the pro you planned to meet.
  • Possible Cancelations - due to covid-19 and players match times - players may get rescheduled or pros may cancel. We had expected Nick Kyrios and Denis Shapovalov to appear. But they both canceled last minute.
  • Travel costs not included - Must spend travel costs to go to the location - I flew the only direct flight to Miami, which was a red-eye flight, and booked AirBnB accommodations about 5 miles away at my own expense.
  • Seats and spaces are very limited - only a few other investors and guests (less than 10 total I would estimate on any given day
Unexpected encounters and discoveries
Part of the fun is that you may discover something interesting about tennis pro you did not know much about before. During a brief rain delay the first morning, I had a chance to chat briefly with Brandon Nakashima.

I did not realize he had a new coach who once worked with Novak Djokovic. He was wearing a Solinco shirt, so we chatted about Hyper G and Tour Bite strings. We all had lunch outside after the morning shoot. Brandon is also from the San Diego area and we chatted about memories of Angel Lopez as his junior coach.

Crowning Moments for any Hardcore Tennis Fan's Bucket List
The tennis fan’s experience of seeing and meeting a top player is among the highlights of attending most pro events. As a freelance photographer, getting a great photo in ideal conditions is so difficult among media pros because of the conditions, movement, other photographers – that it may be hours of wasted time to get one “lucky” shot.

You improve your odds to meet your Tennis Hero by going to one of these "lifetime experience" events. It’s almost like cheating in a way. You get to cut into an express line set up for a few hours dedicated to TopCourt and a few select guests.

It would be an amazing tennis birthday gift - most appreciated by someone who has been through all the traditional means of seeing a player in real life. Once there, the hosts will introduce you and allow you to mingle more comfortably with the pro. Getting a chance to share a few words and ideas with them can really make your day.

Building Courage around Tennis Stars
Several staff and investors that attended initially felt shy about approaching the pro. This is very human and I think attending more of these events makes you better at asking questions and approaching strangers comfortably. Being well-tuned to the nature of their work and also listening to hours of their presentation allows you to feel attached and builds rapport with them.

Overall, I'm very impressed by the production value and my week with TopCourt and the filming crew gave me a deeper appreciation for the craft and lives of the pros as individuals away from the work/media pressure of the tour.

You discover each star is also just someone's child - each has their own humanity, soul, and personality as opposed to the circus environment of the Tour that tries to turn them into street performers. You meet their parents, family, partners, and hear their life stories from their own words. It is an experience I hope everyone can experience once in their life.

TopCourt Gold Membership Offer Special
(Expires April 30, 2021)

Exclusively from Tennis-Bargains.com only. Sent after you complete your first month.

We are proud of this product, and that it promotes the fight against Covid-19 to keep fans safe, at home, yet engaged with Tennis. Tennis-Bargains.com is now a partner with TopCourt in the streaming tennis e-learning space.

Miami Open 2021 - the Ghosted tennis event

Miami Open 2021

In order to find out the truth, I had to go there myself.
What I discovered was both shocking and disappointing.

“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.”
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
March 22, 2021
After many withdrawals following the Top 3, the Miami Open tournament decided to continue to run. However, on its main page, we found very little information about venue updates.

Contacting the IMG staff members and emailing for feedback multiple times resulted in almost no useable information. This is after having booked travel plans and tickets to the event.

Unplanned Surprises with Miami Open Tickets
A week prior, I had personally purchased a group of (5) pre-sale tickets for the Grandstand (the largest match court). The center court stadium was closed off due to covid-19 restrictions. However, I took a chance and wanted to give my fans a preview of the condition of Tennis Tournaments.
Even the practice courts were partitioned off at least 20 feet away around the court barriers.

After all the player dropouts, almost nobody wanted to go. Luckily, I was able to transfer a pair of tickets to a couple of tennis fans. Then hours before matches began, I was able to sell my remaining two tickets I could not use online. At least it was not a complete waste.

Days prior, the Miami Beach scene was chaotic and forced a curfew in the city. Spring breakers flooded the airports and beaches. The news of after-dark chaos was everywhere.

Miami Hard Rock Stadium - Ghost Town
Below are some of the photos taken that show the eerily empty and largely fan-less campus during the middle of the day.

With none of the usual fan electricity - friends cheering, kids laughing, patrons shopping and eating - the whole event felt like an expensive, giant birthday party where all the guests RSVP'd no.




Opening Day #1
It is typically the time when many players are practicing. At the US Open, this is the perfect time to arrive and watch with few crowds. At the Miami Open, the very odd situation was that even the Order of Play match sheet was not available on their website as late as the eve of the tournament.

Players apparently were dropping out with late withdrawals, and then being substituted:

Health is Wealth: Finding Internal Strength during times of External Crisis


“He who has Health has Hope and he who has Hope has Everything.” - Arabian Proverb


Spring Forward Newsletter

I want to discuss Tennis and Health as it relates during this time of the Coronavirus. The BNP Open was postponed again due to the global COVID-19 outbreak that has impacted our international sport here in the USA. We now turn our eyes to the Miami Open to lead us into the Tennis Spring one year later.

While disruptive and tragic, the safety and health of the fan remain paramount to the game.
Without the spectators attending events, the sponsors will lose money and drop. In turn, the prize pools at tournaments shrink and all players would suffer. It is a vicious cycle. Protecting fans, communities and players should be #1.

Let’s take a page from Mr. Roger Federer’s playbook.
Invest for longevity and sustainable high performance. Seek to create a lasting legacy. When his career was at risk from overplaying, he shortened his travel schedule and kept in tune with his body.

He has awareness of the things he can control, the serenity to accept what he cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference. Panic does not help. It only robs us of our mindfulness and peace. He created a balanced plan and knows that Stillness is the Key.

Only Roger knows how much playing is “enough”. For him, not his ego, that is the slim difference between being forced to retire early and winning another Olympic gold or Grand Slam. His return to Doha after over a year away reminds us that we can all come back to the sport we love.

An extended break
All top athletes know when to take recuperating sabbaticals and not tempt fate. Only they know their own bodies and minds. Their risk limits and priorities. A few unique souls can push those limits past breaking several times, like Rafa Nadal. But we forget he too needs the benefit of Rest and Recovery. There is no one right way to be. Step back today in order to better Spring forward tomorrow.

During this Tennis Sabbatical from the pro tour, I urge readers to seek some of this same reflection time to rediscover their own purpose. Find your inner child of tennis and your reason to play. 

Hope Springs Eternal
With Daylight Savings, we can all “spring forward” as a nation together. We can all enjoy that extra hour of sunshine. What a precious gift! Some things money cannot buy. Let’s not squander it glued to the news or social media.

I encourage all players to get outdoors, go for a short hike, and if possible, get back to hitting those tennis balls!


If stuck indoors and cleanliness is your passion, try some “Spring Cleaning”.
Open up some windows and let some fresh air in. Detox and de-clutter your room; even if that starts with just half of your desk – commit to removing those distractions in your view so you can maximize your performance are ready to go back to work.

Building the habits to becoming Anti-Fragile
We can build up better resistance and keep our homes/minds/bodies clean and healthy. Taking contrast showers and getting Vitamin D to support immunity. Those are things we can control.

When you are sick you cannot do much. So while you are well, make preparations. Be courageous and make your own health the paramount priority.

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men." - JFK

Waiting to Inhale
Is there ever a more universal yet basic human function. When you cannot breathe, literally nothing else matters. I appreciate this fact when I step outside today - treasuring a few deep, conscious breaths to relax. Take a long, deep breath in and hold it for 10 seconds, then exhale slowly for 20 seconds.

Build up that extra lung capacity today. Go running or swimming. We can all inhale openly and store a deep breath of fresh air as you read this right now. We take these little things for granted until we see an illness like COVID-19 robs victims of breathing.


Don't just observe sports - go out and play!
Sure, it is a pleasure to watch tennis points on Youtube. But it is even better to play some tennis with a friend. Individual sports like playing tennis offer a way to minimize large group density yet participate in some critical socialization and exercise. You are maximizing your cardio in a very short spn of time while being socially distanced from your nearest opponent outside. Alternatively, you can opt for hitting against the wall a few times a week to groove your strokes to get the rust off.

Spectating any professional sport is now all too easy in our digital world. You have to experience that magic for yourself on your own racquet. That's how we live an active and fully engaging life. At some point, we cannot stay in passive mode – is living vicariously through our sports heroes really the only way we want to experience the joy of victory or the anguish of almost-winning?

Learn a new hobby or practice an old one yourself. We have to experience sports kinetically to find ourselves. To find true peace to escape our own busy heads. Just do it.

Look for small ways to be healthier overall in small steps one day at a time.
Instead of seeking a 100 mph serve on day 1, try to get 1% more consistent on your groundstrokes each week. Add just an extra 10 mins to improve your footwork and cardio – it will pay off many times over down the road! Not only in your tennis game but your overall health.

Getting ready for the tennis season can be as simple as adding 10 minutes of extra power walking a hill or climbing a few more flights of stairs each day. Enjoy and savor your practices - that way you will be more eager to return again. Sweat, recover and repeat.

We need to appreciate these small things during times of trial. Disease tests not only our immune system but our mental courage to be proactive.

Keep Good Hygiene while still Keeping in Touch
Even in this era of “social distancing”, we should seek to build closer relationships. Even if it is just one person. Find the time for that 1on1 chat or in-person meeting to connect. Without large group gatherings, we can still keep our close bonds strong and avoid becoming anti-social.

Reconnect with Tennis Friends
Think about the top 3 people you haven't spoken to in a while or miss the most. Send them a message or better yet have a chat with them to catch up. Also, remember to give your mom a call!

Be healthy, be happy, be safe.
- JC

2021 Tennis Racquet Reviews for 3.5-4.5 NTRP players @ 98 or 100 sq in.

It's March and we're ready to Spring back into tennis!

Coming out of Winter, it's a great time to invest in some new tennis frames and/or fresh strings.

We've spent the last 30 days, Feb 1 - March 1, demoing 21 fan-favorite frames for 2021 to bring you this comprehensive review. Whew!

We chose the most popular frames from these top manufacturers: Babolat, Head, Wilson, Yonex.

This year, we decided to review 98 and 100 sq. inch models. Tweener and Player Frames for 3.5-4.5 players.

The La Jolla Tennis Workshop was our choice for their demo program. It's our way to support a local small business and a community favorite here in Southern California during a tough 12 months of lockdowns.

30 Days Challenge: test 20 Tennis Racquets for $20 in one month?!

Most online shops let you try 3-4 racquets for 2 weeks at $25. A local tennis workshop offers more options and some key qualities you can't get online: in-person service that cares about the small details and puts customers first. After getting feedback from a few "secret shoppers" and interviewing their staff, everyone I spoke to was very knowledgeable, helpful, efficient, and customer-friendly.

Their main highlight is an excellent demo program which is $20/month (4 weeks) to take out 3 racquets at a time for up to 5 days each. You can exchange demos as often as you like. If you buy from them, the purchase price is reduced by the amount of demo cost. I purchased two racquets and they gave me an additional $10 off for the pair. Please just mention Jacky sent you from Tennis-Bargains.

Mark, the owner is very fair and knowledgeable about the subtle differences. After my feedback, he was the one who customized a recommendation for my final racquets I'll be using in the next few years. I only switch racquets every 4-6 years, so with this important decision, I did a very thorough playtest

Jason was very good about notifying customers when a racquet on the waitlist might be available again. The La Jolla Tennis Workshop is right across from the La Jolla Library. Please visit if you're in San Diego.

How we tested and compared our 2020-2021 frames

All frame sizes tested were 98 or 100 square inches this year. All fit into two general categories:

The "Tweener" (10.5oz-11.5oz) is intended for rising juniors or players in the 3.5-4.0+ levels usually at 100 sq. inches. Extra power is given from the frame and launch trajectory.

The "Player Frame" (11.5+ oz) category is for high intermediate to advance adults at the 4.0-4.5+ levels and generally have <100 sq inches. Generally, good technique is required along with good timing.

Playtests and feedback:

In each round, we compared 3 similar models with reference string tension at around 53 lbs. Strings used were usually the recommended poly/hybrid provided by the manufacturer. The racquets were used against 3-5 players ranging between 3.5-4.5 levels of different playing styles with feedback given as the "weight of my shot" and observations from the receiving end.

All of the top frames listed below were also used in match play situations with both feeds and serves to start the point. Every 4 games, I would change a racquet and record my observations and results. Photos were taken of each racquet

2020-2021 Full Demo List

Babolat: Pure Strike 3rd gen 18x20/98/100; Aero MP/Tour; Pure Drive VS/100/Tour;
Wilson: Blade 18x20, Clash Pro, Burn 100, Ultra 100;
Yonex: Ezone 98/Tour, VCore 98;
Head: Radical MP/Pro, Extreme MP/Pro, Speed MP/Pro.

Best of Breeds

Tournament Player Frames - Yonex Ezone Tour, Head Gravity Pro
Spin-Friendly - Babolat Pure Aero, Head Extreme
Lighter, rally-friendly - Wilson Clash/Burn/Ultra, Head Extreme MP
18x20 String Pattern - Babolat Pure Stike 18x20, Wilson Blade 18x20, Head Gravity Tour/Pro (100)

Top Picks by Size and Play Style

Top Tweener 100 sq inches: Babolat Pure Aero
Top Player's 100 sq inches: Babolat Pure Drive Tour, Head Gravity Pro
Top Tweener 98 sq inches: Babolat Pure Strike, Yonex VCore
Top Player's 98 sq inches: Yonex Ezone Tour, Head Radical


2021 Tennis Racquets - Reviews and Prices

The breakthrough designs of 2020-2021

Yonex - VCore and Ezone Designs

Some of the best quality control and 4.0+ player-friendly designs for strikers. The newest versions of both Yonex lines were standouts and best sellers in 2020. We immediately understood why.

The Ezone premiered last year and is a very popular 2020 frame for the control player who demands quality and precision in their specs.

The Ezone (as featured by Krygios and Osaka) offers the classic feel and precision. For a heavier version, we also enjoyed the Ezone Tour for the added weight and plow through. We recommend trying both.

The VCore line (red) is actually just a small adjustment made to the mold of the Ezone to allow for a bit more spin and a little less stiffness.

VCore adds slightly more spin potential on a slightly more forgiving frame in terms of stiffness. I felt the Vcore 98 was superior in class among the other 98 frames.

The Vcore 100 felt too light and lost a lot of the magical qualities in the 98 that we were so impressed with.


Head Racquets - Extreme, Gravity, and Radical

The Pro and MP lines are worth trying for each. Head has the most variants among all the manufactures. Every player should be able to find a weight and balance in their wide range.

The Head Gravity Tour and heavier Pro models offer the 18x20 pattern on a 100 sq. inch head that we have missed since the Liquidmetal Instinct days.

We recommend getting the 2019 colors (shown on the left) at a discount if possible. It is the same as the 2021 version, except with different colors but you should save at least $60!

In past demo reviews, I have enjoyed the Head Speed, Radical as well as Instinct models for tournament play successfully for over 10 years. The improvements this year were the most noticeable on the Extreme and Radical lines. Players should appreciate the newly updated improvements.

The control and comfort on all Head racquets with the latest generation were very apparent. They have consistently made some of the softest frames with the lowest stiffness ratings (RA) of any manufacturer that allow the body many more hours of hitting per week.

Most Arm-friendly

Wilson Clash

Pros: Lots of flex. Perfect for the baseline rally. Most arm-friendly frame with a RA rating of 55! Most frames have 60+ RA. Anything above a 65 is considered stiff. The Clash Pro offers slightly more weight.

Cons: Against fast serves and strong volleys, the flex on these frames can work against you. Many players have added lead on the frames.

Head Gravity

Pros: The heavier Pro version feels very solid with amazing plow-through yet in an 18x20 closed pattern and a 100 sq. inch head size with a thinner 20 mm beam. The Tour model is slightly lighter and more spin-friendly. It has a larger sweet spot than most other 100 sq. inch frames due to the "teardrop" shape.

Cons: Slightly less maneuverable at the net with the higher swing weight. Must have good preparation and technique for quality shots.

New Edition of Best Sellers (Babolat):


Babolat Pure Aero (the new 2020-21 "Banana" yellow)

Babolat's Pure Aero (endorsed by Nadal) continues to wow fans. It keeps all the classic Rafa spin and looping abilities. The one downside is that you may burn through more strings. The spin potential from wider center mains and potential to snap strings quicker.

But if the spin game and loop shots are your game - there is nothing better. Paired with RPM Blast, it creates easy access to spin, power, and depth.

Simply choose the weight that is most appropriate for your swing and abilities (Lite < Team < Base < Tour).

Babolat Pure Strike (3rd Gen in Red and Black)
Pure Strike has added a bit more weight and better plow through with slightly more dampening technology to help with stiffness.

I used this racquet in the Project One-7 (2nd Gen) version for almost 4 years. The reason I needed to switch was because of shoulder pain last summer. It was aggravated with a stiff string with a thicker gauge poly strung too high.

Babolat Pure Drive (Metalic Blue) - the 2021 versions felt very solid and the Tour is one of the most improved lines for Babolat. In the past, I did not particularly like the Pure Drive hitting style even since the Roddick days.

I also tried the VS 98 version but it requires a much faster and full swing with lots of racquet head speed. I typically generate a topspin shot for most groundstrokes.

However, after trying the new Pure Drives 2021's, I was clearly impressed by how well it accommodates hitting a flatter ball and has a lot of control through contact. Rumor is that the swing weight can be slightly higher than the specifications. If you want a true Tweener, then make sure that your racquet is in the right weight and balance.  The metallic blue color scheme also impressed other reviewers.

Frame Stiffness and Injury Prevention - Frames and Strings

A word to anyone with pain, try to use as thin of a string as possible and lower the tension a few pounds. By the time you lose tension enough to restring, the mains should be nearly breaking too. If your strings last forever and you have arm problems, I would suggest putting in fresh strings at a thinner gauge. 

During this past covid year, many tennis players are fighting inflammations across the body which are being magnified. Let the strings and frame take the shock. My prescription is still to get plenty of Vitamin D and lots of rest. With more vaccines rolling out rapidly, every day is getting better, and it's getting better all the time.

I admit it's getting better (better)
A little better all the time (it can't get no worse)
Yes, I admit it's getting better (better)
It's getting better
Since you've been mine 
- Beatles (Getting Better)

2021 USTA Membership Promo Code for Half Off

USTA Membership Promo Code for 2021

USTA Membership 2021 Discount Promo Code - subscribe today!

 New policy changes for USTA Memberships in 2021

  • Junior Memberships are now free
  • Family Memberships no longer valid - individuals must now purchase their own
  • Adult Members are $44/year and Seniors (70+) are $42/year (1/2 off promo code below)
  • All New Memberships are now 1 year only; existing 3-year and 5-year plans will be honored
  • Lifetime Members are grandfathered - congratulations if you have one!
For everyone who was a previous member, there is a renewal code to get $22 off the USTA membership.

Get our USTA Membership Code and Tennis Discounts today!

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We are slowly growing back the sport of tennis and having fans come back again.

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