Most recreational tennis players could be grouped into two categories when it comes to dealing with the wind. I like to call them either windmills or straw houses. A windmill is someone who uses the wind to enhance their tennis game and a straw house is someone who gets blown over by a breeze. A tennis ball only weighs around 2 oz., and therefore, any amount of wind will impact its flight through the air. The astute player understands how to use the wind to his or her advantage instead of letting it negatively impact the quality of tennis. Shot selection and game plan should vary depending on the velocity and direction of the wind. Here are some tips to prevent the fall weather from blowing you off the court.
1. With the wind at your back, hit more topspin and don’t be afraid to rush the net
Topspin is great at preventing a ball from flying long since it pulls the ball into the court more sharply than a ball which is hit flat; with the wind at your back it is easy to over hit, so not only does topspin give you extra safety, but the wind accentuates the topspin, thus making the ball seem even heavier to your opponent.
Conversely, since your opponent is hitting into the wind their ball will fall short more often thus attacking the net can be an intelligent game plan. Your opponent’s passing shots will have less on them since the wind slows them down, and their lobs will oftentimes fall short or be easier to run down. Be careful slicing into the wind however as a sliced ball descends slower so with the wind at your back and your slice have more of a tendency to float longer than other shots.
2. When you are hitting into the wind aim higher over the net and hit a faster flatter ball
The wind will deaden your shots, so you have to hit out a little more to prevent your balls from becoming easy shot for your opponent to capitalize on. Slices into the wind will really die on you, so they can be good to change the pace, and if you catch your opponent behind the baseline, a drop shot into the wind can be incredibly effective.
3. Serve and volley with the wind at your back
The advice I gave on ground strokes also applies to your serve. If I am playing a match outside with heavy wind at my back, one of my favorite plays is to hit a big kick or topspin serve and follow it into net. If my opponent is serving into the wind I know to step in a little more and hit aggressive, heavy topspin returns, especially on second serves. Oftentimes, wind will not just be blowing from one baseline to the other, but also laterally, so try to take advantage of it. If the wind is blowing to my left, serving as a righty, I know a slice serve will pick up more action. If it is blowing to my right, I like to hit kick or twist serves out wide on the ad side, the wind can often help you to pull the ball off of the court more then you could on a calm day.
4. If it’s windy don’t cancel
Sometimes, recreational players will decide not to play if it is too windy, this is a mistake. You may have an important match in the wind sometime and there is no substitute for practicing under these conditions.
Do not be discouraged by wind, remember that tennis is as much mental as it is physical, and next time you play on a windy day, play smarter than your opponent and see if you can become a windmill.
<p>Daniel Kresh is a USPTA-certified tennis professional who recently accepted the positions of director of junior tennis and assistant tennis professional at the Three Village Tennis Club in Setauket, N.Y. He is also the assistant professional at The Port Jefferson Country Club at Harbor Hills. He may be reached by e-mail at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.</p>