May 30, 2016
Tennis matches aren’t always pretty. Even the best players in the world are faced with conditions that can impact the mind and body. It’s important to face each weather condition with the right mindset. Let’s take a look at the different scenarios you can face in a tennis match.
The ultimate equalizer! In fact, when my team is playing a team that is better on paper, I hope for wind. This happened in the last season I coached where we were within one match of beating a much better team. That day, the winds were reaching 30mph! If you are the favorite in a match with wind, be careful. Placement and power are both minimized with wind. Play your match with the mentality of not going for your shot. Force your opponent to make riskier shots. This is even more critical when facing a side-to-side wind. This makes hitting corners more difficult. Pay attention to the direction of the wind. If it is blowing to your forehand on one side, then expect more backhands on the other side. If wind is either in your face or to your back, your mentality must be different depending on the side you are on. If the wind is in your face, flatten your shot out and hit harder. The wind will keep it in. Also, if you are nervous and have a hard time moving your feet during the match, this will be an easier side to play on. The wind will make the ball come to you rather than you having to move forward. Having the wind to your back can be advantageous if you take advantage of it. Hit with more spin and the wind will make it even more difficult for your opponent to hit a good ball back. No need to over hit. The only problem is if you let the ball come to you, you will have a hard time keeping the ball in the court. Move forward and enjoy the benefits of the wind aiding power to your shot.
Most of us relate hot conditions to making sure we drink a lot of water to stay hydrated during the match. This is true but you are missing an important element to the game. The speed and bounce of the ball is greatly impacted by temperature. I love hot conditions because it favors a taller player with a big serve. I can get the ball to bounce high on my serve and my opponents cannot keep the ball low, which I do not like due to my height and heavy topspin shots. Plan on playing further back from the baseline to give yourself more time to react to the shot and because of how high the ball will bounce. You should also consider the serve a higher asset in hot conditions as you can strike the ball with more velocity, making it more advantageous to start the point with the serve. As a side note, consider stringing your racquet higher in tension by a couple of pounds. This will give you more control to combat the added pace you will experience.
After reading the last section, you can probably predict what kind of conditions you will be playing in with cold conditions. Expect longer rallies due to the fact that the ball will not fly through the air as fast. Along with patience, hitting slice is often rewarded in cold conditions due to the fact that the ball already will not bounce that high. Also, try incorporating the drop shot when the timing is right. On your serve, expect the return to come back so do not risk as much on the serve. There is no point in going for a big serve if the cold weather negates your efforts.
We know to pick the side with the sun to our back if we have the opportunity, but there is more to it than that. Consider wearing a hat or sunglasses while playing but be aware that this is not an easy thing to do if you are not used to it. When warming up for your match, choose the sun in your eyes so you know how to deal with the conditions when you are on that side during your match. When serving, I like to look for clouds in the sky that will block the sun during my serve. Time it right (without too much of a delay) and you can be rewarded with a much easier serve. Also consider hitting two serves of the same speed so that you don’t have much change in your motion and toss. This will make it easier to adjust if you miss, which is more than likely due to the sun. When you have the sun to your back there are a few things to keep note of. More than likely your opponent is not going to serve that well so take advantage by being aggressive with the serve return. Putting pressure on them with the addition of the sun will make it difficult for them to hold serve. Also, if they are at the net, lob more than usual. It will be very hard for them to hit a good overhead with the sun in their eyes.
Playing outside under the lights makes me think I’m playing a night match at the US Open. Although I really enjoy playing at night, the lights at the tennis courts often make it hard for us to fully adjust with our debt perception. To make things worse, we often pick up the ball a little later than usual. This is why I really focus on blocking the serve back as much as possible for the return. This minimizes the length of my backswing and gives me the best chance at hitting the serve back. I also try to hit the ball hard when the player is at the net since their reaction time will more than likely be lower. Try throwing in some lobs too. Most tennis parks have lights that are not the best for looking up into the sky.
Indoor tennis matches heavily favors the player with the better serve and stronger groundstrokes. Without any adverse conditions to worry about, we often play our best tennis indoors. With that said, it is important to focus on a few things that are more important when playing indoors. The courts will most likely be faster so there is an emphasis on the serve and return. Hitting big serves is sometimes risky but rewarded the most in indoor tennis matches. Also, try to shorten your backswing to get the ball in play on the return. Nothing frustrates a big server more than getting balls in play off of their return.