Mother Nature: Your Toughest Opponent

Tennis players often get spoiled playing indoor tennis because the playing conditions are set up to be near perfect for any level of play.

Your first match outdoors can be a shock to your system. But if you accept the facts of outdoor tennis, it will help you find a solution to play against the best of the best--including your toughest opponent of all, Mother Nature.

The Sun

Facts- At times the sun will be directly overhead, and can be a problem especially when serving or hitting overheads.

Solution-

  • Wear a visor or hat
  • Try sunglasses
  • Adjust your serve position on the baseline and you may even want to adjust to your ball toss out of the sun

Be sure to protect your body from the strong rays of the sun you will encounter when playing outdoors.

Nick Bollettieri

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in his article archive.


c.2005 Barbara Banks

Temperature

Facts- Especially in early spring the temperature can vary from anywhere to extreme heat to extreme cold. Humidity may also play a factor at times.

Solution- Be sure to have whatever clothing is needed per the weather conditions, which can change very quickly. Take extra clothing, including a quick change of shirt and an extra pair of socks. Extreme temperatures can also wreak havoc with your string tension and the bounce of the ball. You will feel a slightly stiffer string tension in cold weather. Also, the ball will not bounce as high in cold weather while warm weather will give the ball more life and a higher bounce.

Court Surface

Facts- Indoor hard courts are not subject to the weather conditions that will affect the speed of outdoor hard courts. The effect of sun, rain, and snow will most likely make these courts play a little faster.

Solution- You must anticipate the oncoming ball very quickly and begin your movement and backswing preparation earlier. Try playing a little further back from the baseline until you feel confident you can begin challenging the ball earlier.

Facts- The majority of indoor centers contain hard courts, but remember, playing outdoors can bring soft courts into play.

Solution- The biggest adjustment you must accept is that indoor hard courts give you the same true bounce all the time. Clay courts will constantly change, especially in longer matches where you will dig up the court which can cause the ball to do tricks when it bounces.

Facts- Indoor hard courts will play much faster than indoor clay courts which results in more unforced errors and generally shorter rallies.

Solutions- Clay courts give the player more time to retrieve balls which creates longer rallies taking a toll on players not prepared to hit the extra ball or two. I suggest doing lots of extra cardio preparation before challenging the clay courts. Don't be afraid to take a few lessons on how to move including learning how to slide.

Humidity

Facts- Even though indoor hard court surfaces may be a bit slower than outdoor hard court surfaces, indoor play is considered faster because of the lack of humidity in the air. Humidity in the air causes the ball to travel more slowly resulting in a slower speed of play.

Solution- I suggest finding a practice partner or taking a hitting lesson with very simple drills designed to work on keeping the ball in play. Such as:

  • Hitting the ball to the center of the court with the ball landing a few feet past the service line, which means the ball must clear the net by several feet.
  • Hitting the ball crosscourt or down the line with a target made from a circle of balls. Do not hit winners, but try to keep the ball in play.

Playing in humid conditions, especially when playing on clay, can diminish a player physically very quickly unless you prepare by being properly hydrated before the match and keeping a banana or some sport bars in your bag.

Throughout all of our lives we will be challenged to make adjustments and even changes. Mother Nature will always be a winner and you can join the winner's circle by accepting the facts and finding a solution.


Nick Bollettieri founded the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in 1978, the first full-time tennis boarding school to combine intense training on the court with a custom-designed academic curriculum. He has coached 10 players who have reached No. 1 in the world, including Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Martina Hingis. To learn more, visit IMGAcademies.com.

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