Meet the Novi entrepreneur behind what's billed as first tennis simulator in US

Posted at 9:55 AM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 10:41:43-04

(WXYZ) — As they say in tennis, love means nothing. But it’s actually a great love of the sport that gave way to what’s being called the first tennis simulator in the country right here in Novi.

“When you're on the court, you got the unknown. And I'm always like that type of person. I've always felt like an entrepreneur-minded person. I always want to be out there, take charge,” said Thành Tran, founder and owner of TennisTEC.

Tran started hitting the courts after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in electrical engineering.

It was all fun and games — until the pandemic gave the Novi entrepreneur and coach an idea.

“Tennis was one of those sports that was social distance friendly,” he said. “I always loved tennis and I bought cans of balls knowing that we're going to be stuck indoors or be away from our friends and family. So I just bought a bunch of cans and my son and I, we went to hit and I just realized … why isn't there a simulator?”

So he reached out to Golfzon, a leading golf simulator company in South Korea, and asked if they had software for tennis.

“We talked and I said, ‘can we retrofit it?’” recalls Tran. “I saw something that had been built, I said, ‘I can make it better.’”

And then game, set, match — TennisTECwas born. The simulator just opened to the public this past January.

Daniel Croteau became one of the simulator’s first members; he says he loves popping in for some drills.

“To get in here on the simulator and hit just ball after ball after ball for half an hour and ... burn off some calories, get the swing,” said Croteau.

Tran said they have more than 150 drills to choose from on the simulator.

One of the big focuses is accessibility. Tran said he worked with local wheelchair tennis coaches to make sure this is a space they could play in too.

“Let’s do it right, but not only make it for body-abled people, but let's make it inclusive for everyone … and that's why we made it work, that’s why we made it as wide as it is,” he said.

Tran said he is also working with organizations to try to make the simulator inviting for people with autism.

It’s all about spreading that love of tennis far and wide.

Whether you’re a beginner or have been too long out of the game and need to work on your groundstrokes — TennisTEC has options to match your level, and the best part, you don’t even have to pick up the balls.

A wide attachment at the base of the simulator collects and funnels the balls down into what Tran calls the body of the operation behind the screen, grabbing them and then feeding them out.

TennisTEC sessions start around $30 — but they offer varying memberships, coaching options, data analysis and more.

“Every time you do any type of drills, at the very end, you get an idea of where all the balls went, it tells you how fast your speed was ... and then also it tells you in regards to the success rate, how many went in, how many went out,” said Tran explaining the analytics offered.

And while this simulator is a tool to help you up your game — there’s also a playful element about TennisTEC you can’t ignore.

“Most of all, if you walk out and you said you didn't have fun, we didn't do our job,” he said.

For more information on TennisTEC, click here.