If you have wondered what effects can weather have on tennis, a former ATP player and current coach, Jean-Yves Aubone has more on this topic in this article below.
If a TV station’s weatherman happens to call in sick one day, and they can’t find a replacement, they should call a tennis coach.
Weather conditions have a HUGE impact on what goes on during a match. Unless we’re playing indoors, I find myself checking the weather every 3 hours to see what the conditions are going to be like on match day. My trusty NOAA radar app has become as important as my GMAIL app!
Below are the following things I look at, and why they’re important.
Table of Content
Elements of Weather That Have an Effect on Tennis
Different temperatures can have a dramatic effect on the ball and speed of play. Considering different players prefer different playing speeds, this is an important factor.
Cold temperatures slow the speed of play down by hardening the ball, causing it to lose air pressure inside, so it moves through the air slower and bounces lower. To make matters worse it can stiffen the strings up as well.
More balls will be hit with a contact point below the net, making you spin the ball up more, and making it more difficult to play offensive tennis.
Heavy topspin groundstrokes are no longer as effective because the ball won’t bounce as high. This could potentially leave too many balls in your opponent’s strike zone.
Flat groundstrokes and slices become preferable as the ball will stay low, making it difficult for your opponent to hit aggressively.
Kick serves are no longer as effective either for the same reason we just mentioned above. Slices serves that are jammed into the body become the go to play.
Dropshots become more effective as the ball doesn’t bounce as high, making it more difficult for your opponent to retrieve it. Slices become more effective as the already low shot that it creates becomes even lower.
Short volleys become preferable to deep volleys, as they’re more likely to bounce twice, or at least bounce so low that your opponent struggles to lift the ball and hit a quality passing shot.
To understand how the speed of play is affected on warmer days, just take the complete opposite of what I just said about cold weather!
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Wind is the biggest equalizer in tennis. It’s the one element that can bring any player to their knees. A windy day can make any great player average, giving their weaker opponent a better chance at victory.
Wind can move the ball so much that it becomes difficult to make contact in your strike zone. It then becomes difficult to hit the ball well, difficult to hit it clean, difficult to hit to targets that can hurt your opponent, and difficult to play offensive.
And if the wind gust slows down just as you aimed a little bit too close to the center, your opponent can now take offense and hurt you.
Wind also makes it difficult to serve well. Just as you toss the ball, the wind moves the ball and you’re more than likely to make contact just off the center of your racket.
Just like with the groundstrokes, it’s going to be difficult to place the serve well. You’ll be forced to hit with more spin, and closer to the center of the box, just so you don’t double fault.
Footwork is tested in the wind.
If you don’t have great footwork, you’re not going to enjoy playing in the wind. On a windy day, the ball rarely goes exactly where your eyes interpreted it would go. You have to stay light on your feet, continuing to make adjustment steps up until it’s time to make contact.
So if you’re a big server that loves to play offense, but is a little heavy on your feet, wind is your biggest nightmare.
If you then add in colder temperatures where the ball bounces lower and moves through the air slower, you’ll probably wish you were home instead of on the court.
Humidity is also an underrated factor, not just on the lungs, but on the speed of the ball as well.
The more humid the conditions are, the slower the ball is going to play. There’s more moisture in the air the ball has to push through as it’s traveling to the other side of the court.
Think of Indian Wells vs Miami Open.
The ball travels much faster through the air in the drier/desert-like conditions at Indian Wells than in the humid conditions in Miami.
To keep the conditions playable for today’s big hitting players, the Indian Wells tournament uses a grittier type of court that chews the ball up and slows it down, AND they also use a softer/fluffier ball as well.
The Miami Open uses a slightly slicker court to balance out the humidity.
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Cloudy vs Sunny Days
If you understand how weather works, this section might be obvious, but I wanted to put it out there just in case.
Cloudy days bring more humid and cooler conditions. So if you’re playing on a cloudy day, with cold temperatures, be ready! That’s going to create slower conditions.
If you’re playing on a sunny day with warm temperatures, beware of the big servers and hitters! They’ll be thrilled to jump out on the court and fire away.
Effect of Weather Changes on Tennis on String Tension
Depending on the conditions you’re about to encounter during your match, you’ll have to string your rackets accordingly.
If the conditions on match day are what you’re used to practicing in, great, you don’t need to do anything. But if they’re going to be drastically different, you’re going to have to adjust your string tension to feel like you’re getting the same amount of power and control you’re used to.
A cold cloudy windy day will have you feeling like you’re hitting a 10 lbs rock off your racket. A clear, dry, and warm day will have you feeling like you’re playing racket ball.
So you need to adjust your string tension whenever there’s a significant change in the weather conditions.
How much of a difference in conditions will make you want to change the string tension?
A roughly 10-12 degree temperature change should get you thinking you need to string tighter or looser. It might just be a 1 or 2 lbs difference, but small details matter at the highest levels.
If the temperature change is greater than 15 degrees, it might be a 2-3 lbs difference in tension. Once you get to a 20-30 degree temperature change, it might even be 4 or 5.
I know that sounds like an impossible temperature change from one day to the next, but weather patterns in Australia and Europe can be bipolar. Anything can happen from one day to the next, or morning till night!
Putting It All Together
Prepare accordingly! Pay attention to the weather. Download the apps. Look ahead. Plan and be ready.
Be prepared for fast and offensive conditions on dry warm days, and for longer rallies with lower bounces and cold days.
And even if you’re just a fan and never hit the courts, but are wondering how in the world an upset happened when your favorite player was clearly the favorite in the match……check the elements. They probably played a big role in what happened!