I played a match last week where the sun was shining, the temperature was pleasant, and my fellow players were delightful. I was absolutely miserable. Why? Because it was windy. And I'm not talking light, refreshing breezes. We had gusty, blustery, gale-force winds to contend with. I hated it. Give me freezing cold or blazing heat. Just don't give me swirly, twirly winds.
How did it go for me? Not well (obviously since I'm writing about it). I totally tanked. Sadly, when I thought about it later, I realized there were a some little things I did flat out wrong during my match that I could easily have changed to ensure myself a much better outcome. So to save you from having an equally bad windy experience, here are my six best tips for playing tennis in the wind.
1. Figure out which way the wind is blowing and plan accordingly. While this seems obvious, it pays to take the time between each point to decide what kind of wind you're dealing with. Different kinds of wind call for different actions. So –
If the wind is blowing in your face, your shots will be slow and may end up in the net. Shots hit towards you will arrive much faster than you expect. To overcome this kind of wind, hit harder and aim higher. And move your feet to quickly get to balls coming your way.
If the wind is blowing at your back, your balls can sail long and out. Shots hit in your direction may land shorter than you expect and stay low. When dealing with this wind, play it safe and keep your target at the middle of the court. Again, move your feet to quickly get to incoming balls.
If the wind is blowing cross court, your shots may go wide. Shots coming towards you may blow off course, ending up right where you're not. You definitely need to get to the ball quickly and may even benefit from taking shots out of the air before they have a chance to blow away from you.
If the wind is swirling, well, any of the above may happen. The best thing you can do, as stated above, is use your footwork to get close to the ball.
2. Go for the middle of the court. With all of the things that can happen to a tennis ball on a windy day, the safest play is usually just to forget about hitting incredible winners and aim for the middle of the court. Not too short, not too deep, not too high, not too low, and not too close to any of the lines.
3. Change your serve. Instead of trying to ace your opponent off the court, windy conditions often call for you to just get it in. While this may go against everything you stand for, serving in the wind is sometimes just too unpredictable. And if the wind is blowing your toss all over the place, you can forget about hitting what is normally an easy serve for you to make. Getting the point started becomes much more important when the wind is playing havoc with your serve. This, in fact, was my downfall during my windy match as I was just positive I could hit a slice serve and didn't need to resort to hitting a puff ball into the service box. I would have done much better hitting the puff ball.
4. Don't overthink it. The wind can do all kinds of things with a tennis ball and can do them all at once. You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out exactly what is happening at any one moment on the court. If the wind is gusting, blowing and then stopping and then blowing again, you can get completely crazy. So don't try to analyze the wind situation too deeply. Think about playing safe tennis – hitting to the middle, not going for the lines.
5. Realize that your opponent has the same problem as you. Tennis is a mental game. We already know that. Throw in some adverse, windy conditions and your game goes right out the window. But if you remain calm and realize that your opponent is working under the same adverse conditions that you are, you can regain your edge and win just enough points, sloppy or not, to win your match.
So those are my 5 best tips for playing tennis in the wind. What kind of weather do you hate playing tennis in? What are your best tips for playing when the weather is less than perfect? Let me know in a comment below because I'd love to hear what you're doing to play great tennis!
© Kim Selzman 2013 All Rights Reserved