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How to Play in Cold Weather
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

As winter quickly creeps up many of us are going to be facing colder conditions than we like. For players such as myself in Ohio, we will be forced to play indoors soon, however, until then I will fight the cold weather until it is unbearable.

Playing tennis in 40 degrees and playing tennis in 90 degrees is definitely a change. Most importantly you have to dress accordingly. If not, you may be too sick the next day to play. I suggest wearing several thin slayers of clothing so you can take off small amounts as you warm up. If you have a large sweatshirt on over a t-shirt you will be going from one extreme to the other when you remove the sweatshirt and you may get really cold extremely quick.

There are two things I cannot stand wearing when playing tennis. One is sunglasses and the other is gloves. These two things drive me nuts. I would rather have ice-cold hands than try wearing gloves when playing tennis. However, if they do not bother you they might not be a bad idea. I find it extremely difficult to feel the grip with gloves on, no matter how thin the gloves are. Gloves are not a bad idea on change-overs if you can find a way to keep them warm as you play. The colder your hands are the harder it is to find the right position on your grip. Sunglasses can be helpful as the winter sun is lower in the sky and more likely to be a constant bother. I have seen few people who can actually play good tennis with sunglasses on but it is definitely a challenge.

Last but not least, be sure to stretch a lot before you play and as you warm up. Your muscles will take longer to loosen up in the cold and you do not want to pull any muscles. Be sure to take your time in the warm up, and try to hit in the warm-up 5-10 minutes longer than you usually would.

Ok, enough with the boring stuff, let's get to the fun part.

If you are not as in shape as you wish you were, the colder the weather the better. Without the 90 degree sun and 90% humidity bearing down on you, you will be able to play longer and stay in the longer rallies without feeling like you are going to pass out.

The cold weather has effects on the ball. The colder the weather the less bounce the ball will have. Your topspin will have less effect but your slice will be more deadly than ever. Drop shots are also more effective since they will not bounce as high. If you have a big kick or topspin serve beware, the cold weather will take some of the kick/bounce out of the ball. Flat serves and slice serves will be more effective for you in the cold and force your opponent to have to get down low for a ton of balls. This also means that the ball will bounce low for you too. Bring your racquet back early for good preparation to adjust to the low bounce, and start your backswing lower than you typically would.

If you have a topspin approach shot and a slice approach shot you may want to try to lean more towards some slice approaches on any ball that does not bounce much higher than the net. This keeps the ball extra low and really forces your opponent to get low to get under the ball and hit a passing shot which is tough.

You also need to move to the ball more than you would in warmer weather. Since the ball is flatter it will not get as deep in the court as it would if it was warm out. Be sure to move well into the court for shorter balls.

With the ball being a little flatter, be sure to aim deeper and hit harder to keep the ball from landing too short and allowing your opponent to step into the court to hit every ball.

When playing in the cold make sure you can adjust your game to the conditions. Playing smart can really benefit you in these types of situations. Keep the ball low, if the ball comes back the ball will not have as much bounce as you are used to so adjust your shots appropriately. Be sure to dress warm and in thin layers, and do not underestimate the importance of stretching and a nice warm-up before your match. I actually know a guy who went out to practice his serve in the cold without any warm-up. He had a big serve and just started swinging away. His hurt his shoulder so bad that day that he had to learn to play left handed, and he will play left headed the rest of his life. Take care of yourself in the cold, play smart and have fun. If it gets too cold, get off of the court and live to play another day.

*** Quick winter tip: Many places take down the nets in the winter (yes, I hate it too) When I was in college my school would take down their nets for a long time. Once in a while the weather would be warm enough to play but there would be no nets up. Just trying to go out and hit rallies with someone without a net is impossible, your sense of depth is way off. You do not need to carry a net around with you. I used to have police tape in my tennis bag. If you tie the police tape to the net posts it works really well. I do not recommend playing a match like this, but it is great for practice. You actually do not need the lower half of the net for depth perception, just the top band.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker
Tennis4you.com