Mental training is just as essential as physical training in tennis. In Venus Williams' words, tennis is mostly mental. You win or lose the match before you even go out there."
However, from warming up with mental visualizations, performing mobility exercises to fueling up with proper diet and hydration, you can only do enough to get ready for your match. But one thing you cannot control and is the weather. Regardless of your endeavors to better your tennis skills, or even how hard you play, the court's conditions are less predictable. Well, unless you have access to indoor facilities – although the outdoorsy feel is superb – every player is at the mercy of mother nature.
This article discusses how different weather elements affect tennis strings and the possible adjustments you can make to adapt to the changes and have a smooth winning match.
According to the International Tennis Federation, playing tennis in high altitude regions, which is 4000 ft above sea level, is advantageous than the apparent alternative. However, a player's success is more dependent on the type of ball they use.
High altitude tennis requires pressurized balls instead of low altitude tennis, which is played using less-pressure balls. At high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure is lower, creating a large pressure gradient between the atmosphere and the tennis ball's internal pressure. Therefore, the ball will bounce higher off the ground and seemingly faster off the strings. Moreover, there will be less air resistance in the flow of the ball. Just like in higher humidity, the rigid string tension will give you better control of the pressurized tennis ball in high altitudes.
A windy tennis game can either work for you or against you. Even so, I'd like to think of a sailor's situation navigating a sailboat who lets the wind do all the heavy lifting.
Therefore, if you're playing out in the open – where your court lacks windbreakers – and the wind picks up, it will throw off the ball, making it harder to make a clean serve. It is obvious to try and hit the ball harder to prevent the wind from carrying the ball. This, on the other hand, reduces the accuracy of the shot.
Nonetheless, wind can be a little erratic, and the faster you elucidate the direction of the wind, the sooner you determine your approach strategy in singles or doubles. If it's blowing against you, try to keep your opponent's pace with a smaller backswing aimed deeper in the court and a bit higher. Flatter shorts will give higher margins of errors when targeting the corners. Alternatively, drop shots will force your competitor further into the court as they run for the ball.
When playing with the wind, approach the net as your opponent's shots will be weaker; this way, you will reach them with ease. The wind will effectively add more speed to your flat serves, forcing your opponent back into the court with your deep serves. As a result, their return will be weaker, giving you a chance to take some more balls out of the air. It is a window to get aggressive with your serves.
However, if the wind is sideways – which can be rather annoying – keep your cool and try to have some fun with it. For example, aiming outside the lines so the wind can direct your serves back into the court. Or aiming deeper in the court so the wind can blow the ball down the line or to your crosscourt.
It is just as hard to play tennis in the winter when looking into the sun. Under hot/warm weather, the string tension on your racquet will drop significantly. The temperature will impact your racket no matter if you have an intermediate or beginner racket. This makes the tennis strings more flexible, giving you more powerful spins, which can be detrimental when trying to achieve consistency in your serves. Higher temperatures tend to cause early string breaks or frays due to the possible permanent deformation caused when hitting the ball. Always carry a hat with you and a pair of tennis sunglasses to get you through the game comfortably.
During low temperatures, the strings stiffen and become more brittle. This often feels like hitting a rock and is compensated by switching to a softer string material. Cold temperatures also cause freezing palms. It is not uncommon to spot players in gloves during winter tennis, even though they risk losing their grip. Additionally, wearing thin layers of clothes can help keep your body warm and simultaneously ease removal depending on how warm you'd like to be.
Humidity has more significant impacts on the tennis ball than the strings. High temperatures lead to higher humidity. With higher humidity, the ball feels heavier, and it, therefore, becomes harder to achieve a clean topspin. It is almost as if the strings don't bite the ball enough. Or better yet, it slides off the strings easier. Furthermore, such weather is the perfect recipe to drain your energy and get you drenched up in a sweat as you would be forced to swing harder or aim higher for the desired trajectory.
With lower humidity, the result is the opposite. Air pressure inside the ball decreases, producing lighter bounces, easier to control even in-flight – well unless the wind says otherwise.
String tension adjustments for different weather conditions
Following a vivid discussion on the strings' and balls' behavior under different weather patterns, it is vital to know their corresponding string tension adjustments—generally, a string tension versus control and power analysis.
According to the Tennis Warehouse university, tension is a component of stiffness. Stiffness and elongation are directly and inversely proportional to temperature, respectively. Warm temperatures require tightening of the strings as they tend to become more springy.
When the temperatures are frigid, the string tension is lowered to increase its elasticity to achieve the same control level as at room temperature. This counteracts the rock-like impact.
Similarly, higher string tension is recommended in highly humid regions and less string tension under low humidity where the strings tend to get rigid. A tennis player can also reduce their string tension to increase their power or even increase the tension to reduce power, particularly if they have a strong forearm.
Other than the weather, the court surface can also dictate tension adjustments for your racket. It is therefore advisable to consider other factors besides the weather when stringing your racket.