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Playing in the Wind

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Wind in your face: When the wind is blowing straight at you, hitting hard doesn't mean the ball will attain much speed going toward your opponent. The upside of this is that you won't hit many balls long; the downside is that your shots won't have much pace. It will be hard to overpower your opponent when you're hitting into the wind, but you might be able to out-consistent him, especially if he's not taking proper advantage of having the wind at his back. Hit harder and a little higher than usual, and most of your shots will land in, but also mix in some short slices and drop shots. Short slices will almost roll on his side, and when he lunges forward to reach them, the wind at his back will often float his shot long. A decent drop shot, when hit into the wind, can become a superb one. Similarly, a heavily sliced serve will stay low, and because it continues forward less when hit into the wind, it will curve relatively more. Used sparingly, the sliced serve hit into the wind can often produce an easy ace on crucial points.

Wind at your back: If the wind is at your back, you have lots of options for playing aggressively. Your shots will fly faster. Your lobs will land deeper and be harder to run down. Your approach shots will also land deeper, and your opponent's passing shots will slow down, making them easier to reach. The one hazard is hitting long. If you hit as hard and as high as usual, shots that would have been 3' in might now land 6' out. The remedy is topspin. Increasing your topspin will compensate for the wind, making your shots drop into the court earlier, and with the wind behind them, your topspin shots will have a tremendous kick as they hit the court. Your opponent will have less time to prepare his shot, and the ball will kick up higher, out of his comfort zone. Also, unlike most other wind situations, having the wind at your back might even make it easier for you to execute your topspin shot, because the ball will slow down, giving you more time to line it up. Hit aggressive topspin with the wind at your back, including some baseline-to-baseline topspin lobs that will often kick well above your opponent's head or even completely out of reach. Follow a lot of your better shots to the net. Your opponent will have to hit an extraordinary passing shot or lob to overcome the wind against him.

Wind from your right: If you're right-handed, the two main shots you can utilize best with the wind from your right are the slice serve and the sidespin slice backhand, both of which will curve more dramatically with the wind's help. You'll also want to tempt your opponent to hit an approach shot to your forehand side, perhaps by hitting a somewhat short ball and then leaving that side a little open. If your opponent is less than fully savvy, he'll take a normal position at the net, not realizing that the whole court is, in effect, shifted to your right (his left) by the wind. When you hit your passing shot, you can aim into the alley to the right of the court, and the wind will blow your shot in. Just don't hit your passing shot too hard: you want the ball to have enough time in the air to get blown back in. Conversely, when you attack the net, tempt your opponent to try to pass you on your left. His shot, which would normally have been in, will blow wide.

Wind from your left: The same tricks on passing shots and attacking the net apply as with the wind from your right, but of course, on the opposite side. In terms of specific spin shots, you'll want to use your twist serve and, perhaps surprisingly, also again your slice serve. The twist will kick to the right nicely, and a heavy slice, if used sparingly, will produce an unexpectedly dead bounce, as the slice's sidespin will turn it into the wind.

Have fun with the wind. If you use it creatively, you'll find the mishits less annoying, and you'll have all of the fresh air, trees, and sunshine to yourself and your hardy opponent while the less adventurous masses are all huddled indoors.

Got any further tips for playing in the wind? Stop by the forum to let us know.

Additional Resources:

Singles Maze

Doubles Maze

How to Beat Four Major Player Types

How To Learn the Extreme Slice Serve

Super Shots: Slice Backhand

Super Shots: High, Deep Topspin

Learning the Twist (Kick) Serve

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