For a few years now, smart phone owners have been able to access the Internet for a variety of tennis-related information. Using a scaled-down web browser, you could accesss mobile versions of popular sites like ESPN or AustralianOpen.com for up-to-the-minute results from Grand Slams and major tournaments. You could also visit tennis forums or email a friend for some last-minute advice on tweaking your forehand before a match.
But as the iPhone leads the way to a new level of sophistication for handheld devices, a variety of mobile applications have emerged -- some silly, some superb -- that offer tennis entertainment and tips for improving your game, and feed your need for tennis content on the go.
Here are eight of the better programs available on the iTunes store for turning your iPhone (or iPod touch) into a virtual training device for improving your game:
Tennis Trakker - Free to $12.99
There are a couple of apps available that let you log scores on your iPhone, but the Tennis Trakker line is by far the best. Available in three versions: Pro ($12.99) Lite (free) and Score ($1.99), all three allow you to score match statistics as you watch a game, then view statistical analysis to compare strengths and weaknesses. The simple interface makes it easy for coaches or parents to keep track of the types of strokes produced, and later view areas that need fine-tuning.
MyTennisTracker - $2.99
Like a personal diary for tennis career, MyTennisTracker lets you record your match results including opponent, score, location and personal ratings. You can then view stats based on your combined career such as your win/loss record, tie break percentage and how you fared in two vs. three set wins. Search your history before a match to see how you did against an upcoming opponent for reference on what worked and what didn't.
YouTube - Free
iPhone and iPod touch come pre-installed with a YouTube application that allows easy access to their online library of videos. You can watch highlights from recent tournaments or perform a quick search for instructional videos. Bookmark your favorites for later viewing on the court or on the couch.
Net News Wire - Free
There are several apps available for $1.99 or more that perform pretty much the same function as a free RSS reader. I prefer Net News Wire, part of the Gator News network. Simply find the url for the feed you'd like to subscribe to, plug it into your reader and you'll soon be subscribing to the latest news and results from your favorite tennis sources.
Sports Tap - Free
SportsTap provides detailed box scores with in-depth team and player statistics as well as season statistics and transactions not just for the ATP and WTA tours, but pretty much all the major sports including PGA, LPGA, MLS and NASCAR. Pretty handy when you want to check in on the score of a live match, or see the results of the day's activities from an event. Data refreshes every minute (sometimes longer), so following the score directly through this app will leave you in a lurch during tense moments.
Tennis Games - $0.99 to $3.99
Games are the most prolific app on the iTunes store and, thankfully, tennis is no different. They can vary in sophistication from simple Atari-esque pong games to fully 3-D graphic extravaganzas that allow you to customize players and Grand Slam locations. A few to look for at the top of the scale include: TouchSports Tennis ($0.99), Ace Tennis Online ($3.99) and 2009 Tennis ($0.99). Believe it or not, these addictive apps can be quite handy in researching tennis strategy -- at least that can be your excuse for using them.
iExcercise - $2.99
Unlike other training log programs, iExercise helps you to keep track of your training for the week and meet goals for the future. iExercise offers handy tracking systems and charts to help you keep track of weight loss and see improvements in your sprinting time. You can also connect with your Twitter network to boast of your progress and gain emotional support from your followers.
Twitterific - Free
Twitterific is a Twitter management tool that allows you to send and receive tweets on the go. Become a follower of the pros and receive first-hand news on the career paths of Nadal, Murray and others on the Twitter bandwagon. You can also subscribe to ATP, ESPN or your favorite tennis blogger for all-day streaming info. Have a question about a specific ruling in tennis? Send out a tweet to your peeps and within minutes you'll have a variety of responses. Hopefully a correct one.
For more tips on how to improve your game, visit Active.com