Play in the weather
Tennis was designed to be played outside in the elements. There are elements to enjoy and elements to complain about.
The acceptable complaints are rain, sleet and snow. These are acceptable complaints because the only way to safely play is under a roof in dry conditions.
The unacceptable complaints are wind, sun and temperature. These factors affect both players equally, complaining about them just wastes time and energy. Let’s talk about how to enjoy these elements to give you an advantage for you next outside match.
The temperature can be a factor to the flight of the ball and your ability to consistently track down shots. The temperature is typically known well in advance so it is best to prepare a couple of days early. If it will be a little hotter than you are comfortable with, start drinking extra water 3 – 4 days before the match. During the match have an extra water bottle or two, maybe even a gallon of water depending on how hot it is. On changeovers pour some water into your hat, it will have a cooling effect throughout your body.
If the temperature will be lower than you are comfortable with, bring extra layers. As your body warms up take layers off systematically. It is important to take off layers slowly to ensure you don’t get cold after warming up. The most important part is a vigorous stretching routine. The biggest risk to playing in colder temperatures are injuries. Try to show up for your match earlier than normal. Go for a light jog, use a stationary bike, or jump rope to get the blood going. After you have a sweat going, it is safe to do dynamic stretching. During changeovers keep your legs moving while sitting on the bench. Don’t let the cold freeze you up.
A strong wind can move a 2 ounce tennis ball quite a distance. Knowing how to play in the wind can create an awful time for your opponents. Topspin shots will cut through the wind creating less of an effect by the wind; while slice shots will float and show great effect from the wind.
If the wind is blowing hard from baseline to baseline your game needs to adapt depending on if you’re facing the wind or if the wind is at your back. Hitting into the wind creates an opportunity to hit a little harder and safely target a little deeper. This is the time to hit aggressive topspin drives and high deep topspin lobs. The wind will knock your shots down. Targeting the baseline or a little deeper will make it difficult for the opponent to attack you. Hitting with the wind at your back takes a little touch. This is the time to hit much heavier spin, too much power and the ball will sail out. Target the service line with your shots and watch them drift close to the baseline forcing your opponent back. This is also the time to sneak into the net often, your opponent will typically hit the ball shorter giving you a chance to get in more often.
If the wind is blowing across the court, there will be a safe side and a dangerous side. Typically it is best to hit against the wind rather than with the wind. If the wind is blowing east to west you will want to direct most of your shots towards the east side of the court. This will create a crosscourt rally that forces your opponent to hit in an area that the wind can push the ball wide while you are hitting to an area that the wind can help keep the ball in play.
We are all happy to play in the sun! However sometimes the sun can be blinding, making it difficult to hit serves and overheads. If you are serving and looking into the sun it is important to experiment with different serving positions. Chances are, serving from a wide position will get your toss just out of the sun enough to hit a solid serve. If you are looking into the sun for an overhead, utilize your non dominate hand to block the sun. If the sun is too bright or you didn’t get your hand in the way soon enough, let the ball bounce to hit a driving forehand.
When your opponent is serving into the sun, try to take the return a little earlier, but never miss. Looking into the sun can be disorienting and can create poor vision for a split second. If you can get the ball back quickly and move in behind it you start the point with a major advantage! Another tactic that is sadistically fun is to utilize the drop shot lob. Forcing your opponent up to the net only to hit a high defensive lob up bringing the sun back into play.
These elements are not picking on you, they are creating an opportunity for you. If you embrace the elements and know how to take the advantage with them, your opponent is in big trouble.