4 Tips for Summer Tennis Success

Hard courts can be brutally hot in the summer time.

From 100-degree temperatures, sun glare and the negative effects of dehydration, how well you prepare for matches in the heat can make or break your on-court performance.

Follow these tips from the USTA for staying strong and hydrated through match point.

Q. I am a nationally ranked 30's player and didn't have a great summer season due to a bout of self-diagnosed heat stress. I'm not sure how to better condition my body to cope more effectively with the brutal Florida heat. Any suggestions?

A. There are a number of contributing factors to excessive heat strain and thermal intolerance. Lack of sleep, excessive fluid-electrolyte deficits, insufficient acclimatization to the heat, poor fitness, excessive body fat, recent illness, certain clothing and colors, and some medications can all make one less tolerant of the heat.

However, some people are simply heat-intolerant, having a physiological disability in metabolic heat dissipation, due to an inherent thermo-regulatory dysfunction. A measure of your body and skin temperature, along with heart rate, during an exercise-heat stress would confirm whether or not this is the case.

Before that, make sure none of the above factors are the main reason for your heat intolerance. Often, for example, players are a lot more fluid- and electrolyte (primarily salt)- deficient than they realize.

Q. Competing in temperatures over 100 degrees, I have suffered heat exhaustion twice. I seem to also be more prone to dehydration and I'm a bit nervous to compete in the heat since then. Is there anything I can do three to four days prior to competition other than major hydration?

A. The primary factors contributing to heating your body up during play are the environment (temperature, humidity, and solar radiation) and intensity of play. Importantly, an excessively elevated body temperature and inability to compete can occur, even if you begin your match well hydrated and attempt to drink sufficiently during play.

Of course, if you develop a significant fluid deficit through sweating, this can also have an additional profound negative effect on your capacity and desire to continue. So hydration is indeed important, and you should be drinking plenty of appropriate fluids (e.g., water, juice, milk, sport drinks) throughout the days leading up to a tournament, especially if it's going to be hot.

Adequate hydration also requires sufficient intake of other nutrients such as carbohydrates and certain electrolytes before play. Other controllable and contributing variables include your fitness, choice of clothing on court, rest and sleep, and tapering training before a competitive event begins.

All of these factors will affect your tolerance of play in the heat. If you continue to have problems, you may want to consult with a physician or sports physiologist who could directly assess your on-court responses related to exertional heat strain.

Q. I am having trouble serving into the sun. What are some ways to modify the serve for that particular situation?

A. You will need to adjust your toss slightly to keep from staring at the sun while you try to make contact. Perhaps throw a few inches more to the left or to the right. It is only a matter of a few inches, and sometimes less, to keep the ball out of the direct sunlight. This is a minor adjustment, and should not have a huge impact on your ability to hit the serve well.

Another option is to move your feet (again, only a few inches) so that when you look up, the light is not blinding. If you do toss the ball and it seems to disappear into the sun, do NOT hit it. Regroup and toss the ball to a different location.

Lastly, wearing a hat or sunglasses might help you to overcome this challenge. Remember, it is better to be outdoors on a beautiful, sunny day, so this is a small price to pay.

Also, you might experiment with some sports sunglasses and wear a baseball cap to reduce the glare. Good luck!

Q. I live down here in hot and very humid Mobile, AL. It seems that when I get very sweaty I can't get a good grip on my racket. Every time I go to hit a forehand it slips a little bit. I use Tournagrip and even some sticky stuff for football players. I also have tried a couple of tacky type grips, but it seems if I sweat enough the tacky grips slip around even more than the Tournagrip. Do you have any recommendations for this problem?

A. Lots of players suffer from this, especially in humid climates. I would urge you to wear wristbands, which will keep perspiration from rolling down your arm onto your hand (and affect your grip). Also, you should bring a towel (or several towels) in your gear bag. Notice that in the humid conditions this summer during the US Open Series of hard court tournaments how the professional players are always drying themselves off between points. When you play, simply keep a towel near the back fence for when you need to use it.

To get started playing tennis in a location near you visit the USTA's Tennis Welcome Center . Find more tennis technique information at the USTA Player Development Web site .

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