Windy tennis conditions is what I like to call a great leveller. Top players need to play more conservatively to keep the ball in the court which makes them less effective. Like all players, they will make more mistakes as the wind moves the ball in the air just before contact with the racket. Shots hit with spin will slow the ball down when going through the air but are safer and easier to control. Hard and fast shots, like the ones that take our breath away on TV, are usually flat (have little spin) and are riskier and more difficult to control. Wind and other weather conditions can have a huge impact on a tennis match. They force competitors to change tactics and play outside of their comfort zone. This often makes opponents more evenly matched. So how do you play tennis in windy conditions? Here are 4 tips and tactics for winning in the wind…
How to play tennis in the wind:
- Be aware of which way the wind is blowing.
- Pay extra attention to your footwork.
- Attack the net.
- Counter aggressive volleyers with a 1 – 2 punch.
1. Be aware of which way the wind is blowing.
Playing tennis with the wind at your back will naturally increase the speed of any shot coming off your racket. So you’ll need shots you can control and keep from flying out. Slice and heavy topspin are your go to shots for this. Slice skids quickly through the court and heavy topspin makes the ball drop down and bounce up. Both of these shots are great for pushing, moving and forcing your opponent back while keeping the ball from flying out due to the wind.
Playing tennis with the wind in your face on the other hand will slow down the speed of your shots. In this situation many players will try to hit the ball harder and miss because they over swing and lose control. A smarter solution is to give yourself a higher margin for error and flatten out your shots (use less spin) to keep the ball deep and penetrating.
If the wind is blowing sideways make sure you adjust your shot selection based on which side of the court the wind is blowing towards. Conversely, when defending ensure you’re aware of the advantage your opponent has based on what shot he/she is hitting and which direction the wind is blowing.
2. Pay extra attention to your footwork.
You should always pay attention to your footwork but under windy conditions this is extra important. So if the wind is swirling and erratic you need to be prepared to take a few small adjustment steps just before hitting the ball if. The key is to keep your movement smooth and relaxed and adjust your position if the ball moves. If you’re not paying attention to the wind and not prepared to adjust your footwork you run the risk of planting your feet and setting up for the shot too early. This’ll result in poor timing and mis-hits.
3. Attack the net.
It’s a plain and simple fact that it’s very hard to cleanly hit an accurate passing shot in the wind. Not to mention almost impossible to lob accurately. Take advantage of this by approaching the net.
With the wind at your back a heavy kick serve or topspin approach will make it very difficult for your opponent to generate enough pace to pass you accurately. Remember the ball is moving in the wind, they’re probably off balance and they risk mis-timing their shot when trying to get power.
With the wind against you, a low, short and perhaps even soft approach shot is highly effective. Follow a shot like this aggressively forward and get close to the net. Your opponent is now in an awkward position and forced to hit upwards. With the wind at their back they’ll be tempted to hit a hard shot to get past you. This will be tough to control with the wind wanting to blow the ball long.
4. Counter aggressive volleyers with a 1 – 2 punch.
To counter players who attack the net learn from the pros. A tactic I used during my professional career was to cleverly try and place the first passing shot down to the feet of an incoming player. This forces the volleyer to hit a defensive first volley which I then follow up with a second easier passing shot. This is quite difficult to do but you see players with superb control like Federer, Nadal and Murray adopt and use this tactic today. Practice this technique by taking some pace off your first passing shot, don’t go for angles and dip the ball at the opponent’s feet.
I will write more on this topic in the future but for now just remember that passing in the wind is very hard. Use this fact to your advantage!
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- Tennis 101: The 6 Basic Strokes Explained Step-by-Step
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