If you are a recreational player, you should not worry too much about apparel and racquets/balls. However, I generally dislike Wilson balls. I prefer Dunlop. There is nothing wrong with using balls that are a few weeks old, but you of course notice the difference in the bounce.
I find that 'soft' balls are great to practice with, when hitting with someone else. They take away pace from the game and enable you to really work on your shots and stamina. Also, try playing mini tennis (not from the baseline, but tennis from the serve line). I love playing matches of that variety, cause you can't just hit hard, but you need to make angles.
When it comes to clothes and racquets.. It really doesn't matter much. I prefer Sergio Tacchini and dislike Nike and Fila, but that's just me. I have five different racquets, all different brands. I think Yonex and Prince are very trustworthy racquets, but any other renowned brand will suffice.
Most important is too have fun
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