Being close to the Texas coast, Houston is a fairly windy city, as are the surrounding areas where we play tennis, like South Shore and Windermere. The bad thing about it is that the wind can wreck every aspect of your game, from your serve to your groundies and lobs. But the good thing is that it plays no favorites, so your opponent has to deal with it too. All you have to do is deal with it better!
Here are some things that the pros do that will help you to play more effectively in the wind:
Take Smaller Steps
Proper footwork is often the biggest challenge in the wind. Lots of little steps are needed to make sudden adjustments. Players who take large steps as they prepare to hit can be caught off-guard when the wind gusts and moves the ball before they can swing. Be sure and keep your steps small so you can quickly adjust your position and strike the ball cleanly.
Tweak Your Groundies
Playing in the wind will force you to make adjustments in your groundstrokes as well. Give yourself a larger margin of error when you aim for those corners and passing shots. And remember, the harder you hit the ball, the less the wind will affect it as it travels to its destination. The slower you hit the ball, the more the wind will play havoc with it.
Adjust Your Swing
The bigger your backswing, the more time the ball has to travel from the start of your stroke to the point of contact. So if you have a big backswing, you might consider shortening it when hitting your shots into the wind in order to avoid hitting the ball too late. Also, when you’re hitting into the wind, try and aim a little higher and harder than usual, because the wind tends to make shots land shorter inside the court, which would allow your opponents to come in and attack the net. Lastly, approach shots should be hit short and low. This will force your opponent to hit up to try to pass you at the net, which is tough to do – especially in the wind.
Use The Drop Shot
Drop shots are always effective when hitting into the wind. The wind will disguise the speed of the ball and keep it from getting too deep in the court. By the time your opponent realizes it, the ball will have already bounced twice.
Hitting high topspin shots when hitting with the wind will give your opponent all sorts of problems since the ball will stay deep and bounce high. It can force your opponent to move deep into the back court to return your shots, and can also force them to hit a lot of short balls. Speaking of short balls, keep an eye out for those anytime your opponent is hitting into the wind. Being able to get to the net is a good idea when it is windy since the conditions make it tough to hit passing shots. When the wind is blowing sideways rather than with or against you, side spins can be very effective. For such times, I like to use my wicked inside-out forehand return :-)
Adjust Your Serve
Slice and kick serves can be even more effective when the wind is blowing sideways. Again, get the ball to move as much as you can to the left or right to really keep your opponent on his/her toes and open up the court. If you are someone with a very high toss, shorten it, or else the ball is really going to do some serious movement in the air before you hit the ball. And if the wind pushes your toss around, CATCH THE BALL. Don’t try and compensate for the wind, because the wind is unpredictable and you’ll probably fault.
Bounce The Overhead
Overheads can be tricky to hit when the wind makes them do a song and dance while they are up in the air. If the ball is high enough, you may consider allowing the ball to bounce before you hit the overhead. Allowing the ball to bounce will make it more like a serve, and easier for you to adjust to the movement after the bounce.
Use these tips and you’ll play better in windy conditions. And if you think your teammates and tennis-playing friends would benefit from this post, please share it :-)