Houston is a fairly windy city and oftentimes, our matches are pretty windy. Fortunately, the wind chooses no sides; it’s the ultimate equalizer. But that doesn’t mean we have to deal with it equally.
A tennis ball only weighs about 2 oz., and when it’s spinning through the air, even a small breeze can impact its flight. The astute player, however, understands how to use the wind to his/her advantage instead of letting it negatively impact their game. Strategy and shot selection varies depending on the velocity and direction of the wind.
Here are some smart tips to prevent the windy weather from blowing you off the court.
With the wind at your back:
Hit with more topspin: Topspin is great for preventing your shot from flying long when the wind is at your back, since it pulls the ball down into the court more sharply than one which is hit flat. Not only does topspin give you that extra “safety”, but the wind also accentuates the topspin, making the ball seem even heavier to your opponent, thus more difficult to return.
Always be ready to come into net: Conversely, your opponent is hitting into the wind, so their passing shots and lobs will fall short more often, making them easier to run down. A constant readiness to come into net is key when the wind is at your back.
Serve and volley: A flat serve can easily fly long when serving with the wind, so use a kick serve or topspin serve to help bring it down into the service box, and then follow it into net. Remember, they are returning into the wind, so the ball will won’t be traveling fast; it’ll most likely be perfect for volleying or hitting a topspin dipper to their feet. And if my opponent is serving into the wind, I know to stand closer in and hit heavy topspin returns–especially on second serves.
If you’re a proficient lobber, throw one up: Though there is wind, you expert lobbers can still use your offensive topspin lob. Take pace off and keep it at a height that’s just out of your opponent’s reach, and let the wind do the rest; it will push the ball past your opponents while the spin brings it down quickly. Even if your opponents do manage to track it down, it will be difficult for them to get into good position to return it well.
Don’t slice: Be careful slicing with the wind, for the ball will hang longer in the air before it drops, and the wind could push it out.
When hitting into the wind:
Hit a faster, flatter ball: The wind is an invisible force, and it will slow the ball down. You can compensate, however, by aiming a little higher over the net and hitting it harder and flatter. The topspin will either bring it down before it can clear the net or give your opponent the opportunity to rush the net and put it away.
Slice drop shot: This shot is super effective to use when your opponent(s) is (are) back near the baseline. The ball will appear to be coming faster but then will drop short, and the bounce will be held up and pushed back toward the net by the wind.
Forget the lob: Lobbing into the wind is not recommended as it usually produces a short shot that can easily be put away with an overhead or high volley.
When the wind is blowing from the side:
Oftentimes, the wind will not be blowing from one baseline to the other, rather it’ll be more from side to side, but you can still take advantage of it. For example, 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 use the kick serve out wide on the ad side. The wind will carry the ball after the bounce, making the return more difficult.
Don’t be discouraged by the wind. Just remember that tennis is as much mental as it is physical. The next time you play on a windy day, play smarter than your opponent and make the wind do the work for you.