Scenario. You have a tournament in two weeks and you are practicing hard in order to get in the best possible shape for the upcoming competition. The weeks go by and you are feeling good about your game; you are ready to crush it, but mother nature has different plans for you. The day of your match comes, and the wind is gusting, which completely messes up your game. We’ve all been there. Playing in windy conditions is extremely difficult for players at all levels, so I want to help you get the most out of those days.
When playing tennis in windy weather, there are a few things you should do.
1. Accept that you will not play your best tennis that day, so keep expectations low.
When you keep this in mind, your disappointment will be less when you make mistakes.
2. Try to find out the direction of the wind. Before the match or during the 5 min. warm up before the match starts, find out how the wind influences your shots and find out the direction of the wind. If there is a flag, watch it and you can find out the direction of the wind.
3. Avoid risky shots. The simpler you play, the better. Don't hit high balls, because the higher the ball the more influence of the wind. The same for your toss with the serve, don't toss too high.
4. Focus on your footwork. Active feet can make fast adjustments. Lastly, realize your opponent is on the same boat, so be tougher than him.
Adjust Your Expectations
As previously said, the first thing you need to do is to accept that it won’t be the best tennis in your life so you can control your frustration. Important for you is to maintain a positive attitude towards the situation. Expect that you will shank a few shots, miss some balls that you typically don’t and that you will struggle with your serve. Sometimes, it's good to laugh at some mistakes you made because of the wind. It won’t be an enjoyable experience, but you can still make the most out of it. Both you and your opponent have to deal with the wind, so if you stay calm you will have an edge over him/her.
It is hard to execute your typical game plan on windy days. All of us have different playing styles, but you need to be adaptable.
Pay attention to the direction of the wind
It is important to know the direction the wind is moving. Is it blowing sideways? Is it with you (meaning blowing in the direction you are hitting your shots) or is it against you (meaning it is blowing in the opposite direction of where you are hitting your shots)? Let’s go through each of these scenarios to see how the wind can affect your game so you can make the proper adjustments.
PLAYING AGAINST THE WIND
If you are playing against the wind, you need to keep a few things in mind.
First, the ball is going with the wind, so your position must be further away from the ball.
Also, remember that your opponent’s shots (especially the serve) will be faster, so you need to be extra quick with your feet.
Your shots will be slowed down by the wind which means that, if you have the time to proper set up, you can be more aggressive. In addition, your opponent will be more prone to errors (I will explain in the next point) so it is important to be solid and make a lot of balls. Last, it will be difficult to hit fast serves, so avoid going for aces and try to increase your first serve percentage by hitting the serves you trust the most.
PLAYING WITH THE WIND IN THE BACK
First, the ball is going against the wind, so your position must be closer to the ball.
I always found that playing with the wind in the back was the trickiest one. While your shots will be more powerful, it is much easier to make mistakes because the ball often sails long.
In addition, it can be extremely difficult to control your second serve. Here are a few tips that can help you:
Serving: spin and slice serves can be very effective. Also, your flat serve will be more powerful so you can swing less aggressively to make sure you get your first serve in. Try to increase your first serve percentage as much as you can.
Returning: don’t go for risky returns and aim 1-2 meters (3-6 feet) shorter than your usual target.
Groundstrokes: avoid hitting slices because it is super easy to float them long. Just like the returns, aim shorter than your usual target so you have more room for error. Try to add more topspin to your groundstrokes in order to avoid them from sailing long.
PLAYING WITH SIDE WIND
First, pay attention to the direction the wind is blowing; is it moving from left to right or from right to left? Let’s say the wind is blowing from your right to your left. Here, hit your shots in the direction the wind is blowing. Avoid hitting shots that will move with the wind (in this case, towards the left). Divide the court into quarters and avoid hitting to the far left quarter of the court (check image below). Try to avoid hitting to the red zone.
Here, where the wind is blowing from right to left, you can use it to keep the ball on the court. For example, if I hit my backhand cross-court (I’m right handed, hitting from the left side of the court) the wind will blow the ball within the limits of the court. If I hit my backhand down the line, I risk pushing the ball wide. Hitting your shots against the direction of the wind is the safer bet.
Summary of Tips
· Stay calm and remember you won’t play your best tennis but neither will your
· Pay attention to the direction of the wind and adjust the placement of your shots
· Stay away from taking unnecessary risks and go for the shots you trust the most.
· Serving will be hard so try to increase your first serve percentage.
· Footwork, footwork, footwork. Moving your feet extra will pay off.
· Extra tip: if the opportunity presents, go to the net. It is really hard to hit passing shots and
lobs during a windy day, so taking over the net will be rewarding.