Q. I play a lot of outdoor tennis (high school), and therefore it is often very windy. On one side the wind is pushing everything long, and on the other everything lands short. Could you give me some advice on how to deal with this?
A. When you are hitting against the wind, feel relaxed to hit out more freely- and aim higher- on your shots. The wind will usually knock the down into the court. When the wind is at your back, hit lower across the net and add topspin to your shots to assure greater margin for error. With the wind at your back, it is effective to rush the net more frequently. Passing shots will be held up in the wind and you should feel confident about closing in tightly to the net, as lobs will also be blown down.
Becoming an effective player when it is windy requires that you play frequently in windy conditions. There is no substitute for experience. Be sure to maintain a positive attitude, as your “normal” shots will be affected by the conditions.
Q. I know this may seem like a stupid question, but here goes. I live down here in hot and very humid Mobile, AL, and it seems that when I get very sweaty, I can't get a good grip on my racquet. Every time I go to hit a forehand it slips a little bit. I use good ole 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.
Q. While playing in a sunny day (outdoor - 4.0 singles tournament), I had a tough time seeing the tossed ball. The sun was directly on my eyes. But it seems with better players that the sunlight does not bother them at all. They toss and hit big serves as normal. Is there a technique to this? Somebody told me that the higher ranked players do not see the ball, if the sun is directly on their eyes; they just toss and hit, which becomes natural after all those practices/years. Is this true? Please help.
A. Believe me, direct sunlight affects every player. The better players have more experience in dealing with this condition, so they adapt more easily. I highly doubt that they just toss the ball and hit it without looking at it. At least I have never heard about this before.
So… what should you do? You might try to toss the ball to a different location. It is only a matter of a few inches, and sometimes less, to keep the ball out of the direct sunlight. 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.
Q. How do you teach someone to play in windy situations?
A. Playing in the wind is a great equalizer. If you want to do well in windy conditions, then get out and play frequently in windy conditions. Much of your success in this challenging environment will depend upon your attitude. You’ll need to accept that your timing will not be as precise and that you need to be more patient with yourself. Try to move your feet even more than usual, because the ball gets blown around a little and you’ll need to make those last moment adjustments.
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. This is a minor adjustment, and should not have a huge impact on your ability to hit the serve well.
Also, you might experiment with some sports sunglasses and wear a baseball cap to reduce the glare. Good luck!