Have you often watched tennis players blow a bit of air on to their hands or fingers between points or just as they are about to receive a serve from their opponent and wondered why they do that? In this piece, we look at the possible explanation behind this habit which is associated with sportspersons associated with quite a few racket sports.
Before we move to this habit associated with tennis players, it would make sense to say this isn’t quite a tennis thing alone.
For some other reasons, even table tennis players are often seen to be doing something similar, i.e. blowing into their palms or fingers or even the ball during matches. We have explained in our piece here why table tennis players blow air on to their hand.
Table tennis players are associated with nimbleness rather than brute force, which is more a tennis player thing. Also, more often than not, a tennis match is played outdoors (yes, there are indoor courts too, we know!) while table tennis primarily an indoor sport.
Which is also why the reasons why tennis players are habituated to blowing on their hands are mostly different from why table tennis players do the same.
So the question then remains,
Why Do Tennis Players Blow on to Their Hands?
Having spoken to players and coaches at different levels, from amateurs to a few of the professionals, we have been able to collate the following reasons why tennis players do the aforementioned.
Overcoming Warm & Humid Conditions
Tennis is primarily an outdoor sport which is typically played in warm and humid conditions. Excessive sweating is oft-seen and natural byproduct, which in turn makes it difficult gripping the racket for players.
Now, there’s always that option to use a towel between points to rub the sweat off, as there are other ways like changing the racket’s grips regularly or using gels or chalks to reduce the slipping.
The simplest option is blowing air into one’s hands, which does not just help in drying the player’s palms but assists in cooling it down as a player looks to receive serve. Blowing into the palms dries out the moisture caused because of sweat and in turn ensures there’s no slipping because of the moisture.
Avoiding Blisters & Friction
There is an immense amount of wear and tear a player’s body undergoes while playing a sport as intense as tennis. One of the most-affected areas is the hand that holds the tennis racket, with the repeated gripping action aided by excessive sweat and the usage of an incorrect grip causing blisters.
This continuous action could also lead to burns because of the friction between the palm and racket, and the more a player tries to ignore this issue, the worse the problem could get.
One of the ways in which a tennis player could look to overcome blisters and burns is to blow air into one’s palm, with a continuous act of doing this ensuring the palm gets some much needed respite from those problems.
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Dealing with Colder Than Usual Weather
Tennis is essentially a summer sport so it’s not often that would find matches, especially at the highest level, been played on a very cold day.
Sure, the same luxury cannot be afforded at the lower or amateur levels, where one cannot afford to wait for the summers to arrive before picking up the tennis racket.
And at that time, it makes sense for players to blow warm air on to their hands to warm their palms up. After all, too much cold can force the hands to go numb and it becomes that much more difficult to handle the racket as a result of that.
In that weather, players are also looking to blow air on to their racket strings to keep it warm.
Matter of Ritual
While some of the aforementioned reasons mentioned are why players blow air on to their hands, some do that as a matter of ritual or even because it’s become so ingrained into them it feels superstitious not to do that.
Think of that famous Rafael Nadal twitch at his shorts or Novak Djokovic’s desire to bounce the ball multiple times before serving, all examples of a ritual that these players follow.
Not too different with blowing air into the hands, which is obviously more common than the aforementioned examples but something that could end up becoming a habit for those used to it.
Feel Good Factor
Some tennis players we spoke to reckoned they were not just habituated to blowing on to their palms but it also felt good.
One described the feeling similar to that of a cool breeze gently hitting one’s face in hot climate and while it did not do much to take the heat off, it felt nice for that moment.
Does Blowing on Palms Really Help Tennis Players?
The jury is still out on whether blowing air helps reduce any kind of blisters or burns, it sure assists in warming up the hands especially given the inability to rub the palms together during play.
Also, who can argue with some of the greats using this as a part of their routine, as a part of a ritual which they need to adhere to in order to get ready during a match.
One can also look to give it a shot because there’s nothing much to lose. You aren’t really wasting any time doing it and at worst, it would feel nice. It could also help towards the latter part of a match when the sweat and friction combine to make things cumbersome, one way or the other.
What Can be Done Instead of Blowing into Hand?
In order to overcome the sweat issue, one can use multiple towels during the match and wipe the sweat off the entire hand between points. At the highest level, one can also look to change one’s racket overgrip multiple times during a long match to avoid the slipperiness becoming a factor in play.
There’s also a chalk dust product which tennis players can use to keep their hands dry, especially if one has a habit of getting very sweaty. Some dermatologists also recommend an anti-perspirant spray which contains aluminum salts that keeps the sweat at bay.
Players can use hand-warmers in cold climate or have attires which allow them to keep their hands in their pockets between points to keep their hands warm.
Final Words on Tennis Players Blowing on Their Hands
Tennis players are unique creatures of habit and while there might be genuine reasons why blowing air on to the hands and fingers help them, it is typically down to the repetitiveness associated with it that makes them blow air on to their palms and fingers.