Monday, April 18, 2011 | 3 a.m.
Nine months ago, the idea came to him like a flash. Phil Aurbach—commercial litigator during the day, inventor in his free time—was playing tennis with his wife, Leigh, when he realized he didn’t need to be there to help her practice her serve; he could invent something to help her out instead.
The invention was as genius as it was simple: A rectangular piece of plastic with tennis-ball sized bumps on it. When the ball struck it, it would bounce off wonky. That way, you know you hit your target, he says. Practice enough, and you’ll have one impressive service.
As a freshman at Clark High School in Las Vegas, Aurbach was cut from the tennis team.
“I hit against our garage door, not knowing what else to do to get better,” he says, with an air of exasperation. Exactly two years after being cut from the team, Aurbach says he was the second-ranked tennis player in Nevada.
“I think that [being an inventor] has always been a secret desire of mine,” Aurbach confesses. After all, one could argue that many of the same disciplines he learned on a tennis court have helped him become a successful lawyer.
“The self-confidence that comes from playing has carried over,” he says. “It’s all about tenacity.”
The invention process has been longer, and more involved, than expected, he says, but he’s very proud of his work. “I never realized it would cost so much or be such a pain in the ass,” he says.
So, what does success look like for Aurbach?
“If somebody says ‘Phil, thank you so much—this is the greatest,’” he says.
And that feeling beats an ace any day, on any court—tennis or otherwise.