Occasionally, even here in the Lowcountry, the early-spring weather serves up fairly windy conditions. That can have a noticeable effect on our tennis games (one minute the ball is there … no, here … no, wait, where did it go?). Winning in high winds means playing less risky, high percentage tennis.
Here are some ways you just might be able to work with windy conditions and get more favorable results rather than being “blown away”:
• Footwork. Use lots of little steps to get your body in position to hit the ball. Two of the best examples to watch from the tennis archives are Jimmy Conners and Billie Jean King. They had great footwork and always seemed to be poised and in balance to hit the ball. Taking big steps will make you prone to going one way when the wind is moving the ball the other way.
• Improve your margin of error. Instead of aiming for the lines, try hitting the ball about a foot or two inside them. Aim a little higher over the net and add more topspin to help keep the ball in the court. Also, be sure to contact the ball firmly, especially when hitting into the wind. Hitting too easy allows the wind to be more of a factor.
• Shorten your backswing. A big backswing will give the wind more time to do crazy things to the ball before you actually contact it, causing a mis-hit or, worse, a complete whiff.
• Hit with different spins, and use the drop shot. Practice using these two tools, coupled with the effects of the wind, and you can wreak havoc on an opponent. A good slice backhand and forehand, low at the feet, can be very effective.
• Be prepared in general, but especially to get to the net as soon as possible. If your opponent is hitting into the wind, chances are a lot of balls will be short and you should be ready to put them away.
• Hit your serve with a little more spin vs. power. Remember, spin already makes the served ball move when it bounces, so let the wind help do even more to keep the opposition guessing. Take your time serving because the wind might affect your toss. Catch the ball and toss it again if the wind moves it around too much.
• Overheads. Again, take your time. Let it bounce (if necessary) and you’ll be better prepared to make the hit. Rather than hit a big, flat smash, consider going for control and placement.
I hope this helps you play the highest percentage, high wind tennis.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides custom-hybrid racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. firstname.lastname@example.org