Monthly Tip

playing in the wind - September 2010

At the US open, we all saw what a demon the wind can be. It can play havoc with your shots, especially your serve and it can drive you completely crazy. It is a major leveler, although I am pretty sure that the best player usually finds a way to win. So I am going to give you some of the basic rules for coping with the wind.

1. Most important, you must be kind to yourself. You are going to be making far more errors than usual, so your tolerance level has to be very high. Patience is paramount.

2. Don't even think of going for the lines for winners. Give yourself a much larger margin for error and when in doubt hit more up the middle of the court. Of course, try to use the wind to your advantage, recognizing which way it is helping and which way not.

3. When you are with the wind, it is imperative that you get up to the ball with great attention to your small, adjustment footwork, and make sure you keep hitting the ball but with more topspin to keep it in. If you start just pushing, you begin to lose your shot production. Remember also to stay down with the ball longer. The tendency is to pull up because the ball is being held up by the wind and by having to reach for it, your follow through comes up too much off the ball.

4. If you are playing against the wind, you must compact your swing and hang on to the ball with a bit more body pivot. You don't have time to take full backswings . It is not just a feeling of hitting harder, but of being firmer. Many players prefer playing against the wind because you can still hit out on your shots and they won't go flying, but it is harder to make winners.

5. Sometimes the wind can really help serving if you use it well. However, there are a couple of tips that you must employ. The toss is going to be blown all over the place, so think about delaying your toss and putting the ball up lower. In other words, do most of your swing and then pop the toss up lower than usual and hit it. First serves are really important because if you put topspin on the 2nd serves, they can catch the wind and balloon out. You might find you actually serve better because you are concentrating better on it, but be patient as you may miss more.

6. Volleying can be hard too, especially with the wind. The contradiction is that you have to hit the ball sooner as it is not coming through, but you have to be aware that is slowing down into the wind, so you have to stay on it longer. Sound confusing? It needs a lot of care watching the ball.

There are so many other aspects of playing in the wind, but hope these ideas help. Remember to make the wind your friend and think that you will handle it better than your opponent, and watch them anguish over it. Good luck!

Virginia Wade with Roger Federer