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 we 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. First, accept that you will not play your best tennis that day, so keep expectations low. Second, avoid risky shots. The simpler you play, the better. Third, focus on your footwork – active feet can make fast adjustments. Lastly, realize your opponent is on the same boat, so be tougher than him.
Below we will cover these points more in depth.
Adjust Your Expectations
Like previously said, the first thing you need to do is to accept that it won’t be the best tennis of your life so you can control your frustration. It is definitely easier said than done but it is extremely important for you 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. Personally, I used to try to laugh at some of the mistakes I 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 can stay calm you will have an edge over him/her.
It is hard to execute your typical game plan during windy days. All of us have different playing styles but you need to be adaptable. Let’s take a look:
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 they can affect your game so you can make the proper adjustments.
First, pay attention to the direction the wind is blowing; is it moving from left to right or right to left? Let’s say the it is blowing from your right to your left. In this case, you should hit your shots against the direction the wind is blowing. On the other hand, 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).
In this case, 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 crosscourt (I’m right handed, hitting from the left side of the court) the wind will blow the ball within the limits of the court. On the other hand, if I hit my backhand down the line, I risk pushing the ball wide. In general, hitting your shots against the direction of the wind is the safer bet.
Against the wind:
If the wind is against you, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, remember that your opponent’s shots (especially the serve) will be faster so you need to be extra quick with your feet. On the other hand, 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. Lastly, 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.
With the wind:
I always found that playing with the wind was the trickiest one. While your shots will be more powerful, it is much easier to make mistakes because the ball often sail long. In addition, it can be extremely difficult to control your second serve. The grand majority of players hit kick serves on the second serve and when the wind is behind you it is particularly hard to make the serve drop in the box. Here are a few tips that can help you:
Serving: 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. In general, 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.
As you can tell, reducing risk is a recurring topic in this article. While it can feel boring for more aggressive players, it is very important to limit the amount of risk you take during a windy day. The first thing you should do is to go for the shots you trust more and avoid the ones you are less comfortable with. We all have favorite shots so keep it simple and go for the shots you trust. Second, have big targets so you have more room for mistakes. What I try to do is to imagine the court is smaller. Take a look:
In my head, the red zone is technically out. I try to play within the limits of the green zone. The size of the red zone is up to you but I believe three feet (one meter) is a safe number. By “shrinking” the court size you will have automatically avoid aiming your shots close to the lines. On top of that, if the windy gets in the way of you hitting a clean shot, you will have a bigger margin for error.
The last thing you need to focus on is being extra active with your feet. Because the wind will move the ball in awkward directions, you have to expect the unexpected. The key is to always be on your toes so you are able to make quick adjustments with your lower body. Creating the right amount of distance between you and the ball is extra difficult during windy days so if you do not pay more attention to your feet, you can find yourself in a difficult spot to make contact with the ball. Keep in mind that during windy days you will often find yourself having to make split second adjustments with both your hands and feet but if you stay active and engaged with your footwork you will have more success.
Summary of Tips
- Keep your composure: remember you won’t play your best tennis but neither will your opponent;
- Pay attention to the direction of the wind and adjust the placement of your shots accordingly;
- 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 dividends;
- 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.