Fall is here and that means the wind—and all the little annoyances it brings with it—is too. Plain and simple: Playing tennis in the wind can be a pain.
But just because you might not like the wind, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to your advantage.
The wind can be an issue anytime you play outdoors. Some days are better than others, and some courts have better windscreens, trees or adjacent buildings that can block a lot of the wind. Here are five ways you can play more effectively in the wind.
1. Focus on Footwork
Proper footwork is often the biggest challenge in the wind. Lots of little steps are needed to make sudden adjustments. Players who take large steps as they prepare to hit can be caught off-guard when the wind picks up moves the ball before they can swing.
Keep your steps small so you can adjust your position to strike the ball cleanly.
2. Tweak Your Groundstrokes
Playing in the wind will force you to make adjustments in your ground strokes as well. Give yourself a larger margin of error when you aim for those corners and passing shots.
Remember, the harder you hit the ball, the less the wind will affect the ball as it travels to its destination. The slower you hit the ball, the more that wind will play havoc with the ball.
If the wind is giving your opponent troubles you may want the wind to push your shots around to keep your opponent off balance.
3. Adjust Your Swing
If you are someone with a huge backswing, you might consider shortening the back-swing to hit your shots. The bigger your back-swing the more time the ball has to move around from the start of your stroke to the point of contact.
When you are hitting into the wind try aiming a little higher than usual. If you use your normal ground strokes the wind will make your shots land shorter in the court, allowing your opponent to attack your shots more often. You also need to hit the ball harder to keep your shots deep.
Approach shots should be hit short and low. This will force your opponent to hit up to try to pass you at the net, which is tough to do, especially in the wind.
4. Try the Drop Shot
Drop shots are always effective when hitting into the wind. The wind will keep the ball from getting too deep in the court and will force your opponent to run further to get to the ball.
5. Use Spin
Hitting high topspin shots will give your opponent all sorts of problems since the ball will stay deep and bounce high. It can force your opponent to move deep into the back court to return your shots—and can force them to hit a lot of short balls.
Keep an eye out for the short ball anytime your opponent is hitting into the wind. Being able to get to the net is a good idea when it is windy since the conditions make it tough to hit passing shots.
When the wind is blowing sideways rather than with or against you, side spins can be very effective. I have a slice backhand which I can also use a lot of side spin with.
If the wind is blowing to your right, use side spin on the slice to force the ball to curve more to the right. The more you can get the ball to travel sideways, the more problems you can cause your opponent.
6. Adjust Your Serve
Slice and kick serves can be even more effective when the wind is blowing sideways. Again, get the ball to move as much as you can to the left or right to really keep your opponent on his/her toes.
If you are someone with a very high toss, the ball is really going to do some serious movement in the air before you hit the ball. If the wind pushes your toss around, don’t be afraid to catch the ball and start over. You have the luxury to do this as many times as necessary (even though it might annoy the heck out of your opponent).
7. Master the Overhead
Overheads can be tricky to hit when the wind makes them do a song and dance while they are up in the air. If the ball is high enough, you may consider allowing the ball to bounce before you hit the overhead. Allowing the ball to bounce will make it easier for you to adjust to the movement after the bounce since there will be much less movement from the wind.