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Player to Player: Wearing Sunglasses While Playing

October 17, 2011 06:57 AM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow tennis players!
Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.

Player to Player:
This week's question from Donald:
Hello my name is Donald, and I'm from Tacoma, Wash. I'm 17 years old and have been playing tennis for about 8 to 9 months now. I do not have a hard time beating players hitting with pace and heavy topspin, yet I lose to a person who just taps the ball over. Please help me. It is very frustrating to lose to someone whose groundstrokes aren't nearly as good as yours.
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!

Last week's question from Joe
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
Why do pros rarely wear sunglasses? I almost always do so when playing on a sunny day. I am wondering if I am missing something. I heard anecdotely that wearing dark/sunglasses reduces reaction time.
Player Responses:
Kenny Sommer, Chicago

You are right. You don't see a lot of pro players wearing sunglasses, and you do when you go to clubs or public courts. I personally can't wear them because they get fogged up or just bug me. Sometimes on a real sunny day, I will wear a hat.

Lighting on a tennis court can come in many ways. You have the shaded parts of the court sometimes and have to adjust to that. Playing outdoors under the lights also takes a little adaptation and getting used to. On a real sunny day you also have to adapt and can use techniques like changing the ball toss on the serve and letting a lob bunch, instead of hitting the overhead.

I don't know about the reaction time with sunglasses, but if you feel they help, keep using them. You could also use a baseball cap, or just get used to the sunlight and adjust as you play. Indoor light can also be tricky, and during your warm up, try and get your eyes in touch with the area.

Tom, Arizona

Joe, I think that's a great question. I am neither a pro, nor one that necessarily has the answer. I hope that if nobody responds here with a satisfactory reason, that either the USTA or Tennis magazine will pick up on it and give us an article that discusses this subject.

I just know that initially I didn't like wearing sunglasses on the court. But in Arizona, we really don't have a choice. Without them, on or off the court, our eyes would literally melt out here. And there are so many special lines available of tennis sunglasses now that "highlight" the ball for better visibility. The pros can't control the wind or the temperature, but why wouldn't they do something to try to control glare?


After a discussion with my eye doctor, who is an excellent tennis player, I no longer play outdoors without my sunglasses, cloudy or not. When I whined about my sunglasses fogging up, he gave me a liquid I could spray on them and urged me to get over it.

Sue, Bloomington

Two reasons for sunglasses: One, Mother said to wear them to avoid wrinkles. Two, opposing players watch the net player to see if they anticipate a ball coming their way. Glasses make it harder for them to see my response/reaction and adjust. Disguise is good.

Eric R., Northern California

The history of tennis has had many glasses-wearing players. Arthur Ashe was my all-time favorite, and he won Wimbledon, beating Jimmy Connors. Glasses are not an impediment, but the players are superstitious about doing what they have always done. While that is the overriding reason (don't change a winning hand), other pros complain about fogging lenses on hot days. Always choose polarized lenses as they truly do the very best job of reducing glare.

Karen Keinert, Fairfield, Calif.

I prefer not to wear sunglasses. However, when I'm facing the sunny side, I do wear my "bolle" sunglasses. They are awesome, as they have two sets of lenses. I prefer the green lenses, which emphasize the "yellow" ball. They are great for the sun, and they stay on, without being too tight.

Robin P., Oak Ridge, N.C.

As someone who has worn sunglasses while playing since 1955 (I started because looking into the sun made me sneeze), I am constantly amazed at how few pros use sunglasses. Obviously, wearing any glasses makes you have one more thing to keep the sweat off of, but the pros towel off after every point, anyway.

I am constantly amazed at how well the pros seem to serve into the sun, but they must experience some difficulty, such as having to move their toss a bit and just a moment of refraction after looking up into the sun and then back to the rest of the point.

Modern sunglasses are both light and without refraction problems, and they do reduce glare. For every point where sunglasses MIGHT be a bit of a hindrance, there are at least 10 where they provide clearer vision and tracking of the ball.

Furthermore, sunglasses can protect against sun damage to retinas and the development of cataracts (not likely to show up during a young career, but sooner or later, the damage will accrue).

I must conclude that the pros have better eyesight than I do, like they are stronger and faster. For example, they play regularly with crowds and different color shirts and the like in their field of vision, and that would bother me, but they get used to it. They also seem to play just fine under the lights, and I don’t, especially as I age. So they are just different animals, we must conclude. 
Bob, Colorado

Here, in the Rockies, the sun is so intense, more players DO where sunglasses than don't. And, no, they don't impair reaction time. But don't wear cheap sunglasses for sports requiring eye-hand coordination. Spend the money on good sunglasses.

Mike S., Upper Saddle River, N.J.

Hi Joe. To tell you the truth, I have never thought about the pros not playing with sunglasses. However, I have noticed that Samantha Stosur seems to always play with them. I never like to wear sunglasses in any sport, especially tennis. In tennis, the play is so quick that I find it hard to pick up the ball. Playing with a yellow ball on a green or blue court eliminates all three of those colors when thinking about sunglasses because color contrast will be lost somewhere. Since everyone is different in the way they play, you have to decide whether or not the sun is more of a nuisance for you than picking up a ball coming speedily towards you. In other words, try it both with and without sunglasses, and do whatever works best for you.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
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