When players are preparing for a tennis match or tournament, they can plan for all kinds of scenarios in terms of their opponents. However, one thing none of us can predict is the weather!
While players can prepare to play on grass, clay or a hard surface, the weather can present a number of challenges that even the best players must overcome. Let’s not forget, the Met Office can get their predictions wrong, so you never really know what’s around the corner!
To make sure they can perform to the best of their ability, players need to be prepared for different weather conditions, as it can have such a huge impact on the game.
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Playing in tough weather conditions
Most tennis players will agree the ideal conditions for a match include dry weather, not too hot and not excessively windy. While this is the weather you would hope for on a fine day in spring or early summer, even then, you can’t guarantee the elements.
Adverse weather can affect the surface of the pitch, the way your tennis racket hits the ball and the way you feel. Many players will agree a strong wind is the most difficult element when it comes to playing, as it makes the movement of the ball more unpredictable. However, intense heat is also a tough one. It can be bad enough simply standing in the heat during midsummer, let alone having to run around a tennis court for a couple of hours.
A high wind can throw the toss of your serve off, making it difficult to control your shot and reducing the accuracy and success of your serve.
When you’re playing into the wind, every shot needs much more power to achieve the desired length. This means the player needs to focus more on hitting the ball harder than normal. The wind can reduce the accuracy of the shot considerably.
On the plus side, if the wind is on your side, your shot requires much less power. However, this needs to be adjusted with more topspin to control the shot.
The main problem with the wind is its unpredictability. It can get stronger or weaker during a match, or can even change direction. The player must play with increased energy and keep their feet active and lithe, maintaining focus and retaining a positive mindset.
Almost every player will have played tennis at a high temperature. When you’re playing in the middle of a heatwave, it’s important to conserve energy for key moments during the match.
Playing tennis on an August afternoon during a heatwave can be brutal, with temperatures in recent years rising as high as 41°C. As heat radiates from a hard court, the air temperature for the players can be as high as 49°C. They may begin to suffer from dehydration if they continually run around too much and don’t drink enough fluids.
As well as players feeling the effects of temperature extremes, hot or cold weather can affect the way the tennis ball reacts. A tennis ball is hollow, so during a heatwave, the gas inside expands. This causes the ball to bounce higher.
A high temperature can also make the ball skid across the court’s surface faster, so the game is played at a faster pace. Players who have a strong forehand can make the most of the faster surface and higher bounce in hot weather.
High humidity levels impact the players and the conditions on the court. It causes more water in the air, so sweat on the body doesn’t evaporate as quickly, leading to an increase in body temperature. The game-play feels heavier, as your body is working harder to cool down. This can lead to exhaustion and dehydration.
Humidity also affects the density of the air, impacting on the flight of the ball and the court’s surface. However, these secondary effects are often minimal.
Weather impact on racket strings
Professional players normally have several different tennis rackets during a match. This enables them to alter their game if the weather changes significantly. The strings’ elasticity reacts to the weather conditions. When it’s colder, strings with lower tension will generate more power from the shot.
When the temperature is warmer, players may need to tighten their strings to compensate for the effects and provide more control.
Playing in the snow isn’t something that would happen on a professional tour, as it would be considered too much of a weather extreme. However, for former world number one men’s player Roger Federer, snow is no obstacle to his training.
The Swiss pro player found social distancing and snow no object when he hit a series of shots for the fans in a video posted on his social media. He made it look easy when he joked on the video, “Making sure I still remember how to hit trick shots,” with the hashtag, #TennisAtHome.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) March 30, 2020
He hit a series of behind-the-back shots against a wall with perfect precision. The video attracted more than one million views on Twitter around two hours after it was posted on 30th March 2020.
Highlighting socially-distanced tennis during the lockdown had more of a serious meaning for the star, as he and his wife, Mirka, donated one million Swiss francs – the equivalent of £820,000 – to help vulnerable families who had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Memorable matches hit by the weather
There have been several instances of tennis tournaments not being finished due to adverse weather conditions, such as the 2011 Open de la Réunion, when all singles and doubles matches had to be cancelled, from the quarterfinals onwards, due to torrential rain and flooding at the venue in Réunion.
At the 1977 Australian Open, held in Melbourne, Victoria, the ladies’ doubles final was washed out due to the rain. The organisers awarded the title jointly to Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Helen Gourlay Cawley, and their opponents, Mona Schallau Guerrant and Kerry Melville Reid.
Rain has led to the cancellation of many individual matches and tournaments since records began. It is the main cause of events being called off when it comes to adverse weather conditions.
During the US Open in 2004, when Federer played Andre Agassi, their whole five-set quarterfinal match was impacted by strong winds. It had to be played over two days, as the gale-force winds and stormy weather stopped play on day one. The thrilling match, which was eventually won by Federer, has always been remembered as much for its extreme weather conditions as the tennis itself.
Winter tennis court maintenance
It is important to keep tennis courts well maintained at all times of the year, but particularly in the winter. In wet, cold weather, the court is more prone to suffering a build-up of mould and moss in shaded areas. Also look out for dead and rotting leaves building up on the surface, as they can cause damage over time.
Regular court cleaning is the answer, to prevent staining and premature wear and tear. Leaves, pine needles, moss and mould are the biggest sources of damage, especially in the winter. Standing water should also be cleared away, as it can significantly affect the court’s surface and play, attracting dirt which acts like sandpaper under the feet.
If your court is looking the worse for wear, contact the experts at Dragon Courts for superior tennis court maintenance.