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Playing in Cold Weather
Part I: Preparations
 Related Resources
• Playing in the Wind
• Win With Consistency
• Singles Maze
 

Around here, all of the public courts take their nets down around the end of October. After all, who's going to play tennis outdoors when it's 35 degrees?

That's why I keep a net in my car.

I would much rather play tennis at 35 degrees than at 75. 45 is just about perfect. In the cool air, I can run all day. It's a triple reward: I run down more balls, I get more exercise, and I get warm. Plus, it's too cold for bugs.

The best way to dress for a 35-degree day is to wear several thin layers. I wear a polo-type tennis shirt, covered by a long-sleeve flannel, then a sweatshirt that zips all the way up the neck, then a nylon windbreaker, all of them loose-fitting. In a good, tough singles match, I'll almost always eventually peel off at least two of the layers.

Your body won't loosen up as quickly in the cold, so it's important to warm up gradually. Don't chase the barely reachable balls until you're fully warm and loose.

Below 40 degrees, I often warm up with gloves on. The work gloves with tiny rubber knobs all over the front hold onto the racquet quite well, although sometimes my sense of the racquet angle is slightly off, causing errors. Once I get going, my playing hand is busy enough to keep itself warm without a glove. The other hand, which does little more than toss for serves, usually keeps its glove. If I were a two-hander, both hands would probably stay warm enough.

You'll often want sunglasses and/or a cap or visor when you're looking toward the low winter sun in the south sky.

The biggest difference in the game itself is the cold's effect on the ball. A tennis ball is not designed for playing in the cold, and the height of its bounce decreases in proportion to the decrease in temperature. This is caused by the drop in air pressure inside the ball and by stiffening of the ball's rubber. If you want to have fun with the opposite effect sometime, put a few balls in front of a heater for 20 minutes, then play with them while they're hot. They'll bounce like Superballs for a few games or so. Unfortunately, they'll then go deader than they were before you heated them.

Next page > Cool Playing Tips

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