How to handle playing tennis in sunny conditions and even take it to your advantage

This is a monthly contribution by tennis coach Marcin Bieniek, giving us tips and tricks on how to prevent the sun from being our enemy in tennis matches. A few months ago, Helen Crowley of 40ishLove shared her “5 Easy Sun Protection Tips for Tennis Players”, and while she focused on skin care and the importance of protecting your body from the sun, which also includes staying away from it, Marcin’s tips focus on the ways to make the best out of sunny conditions. This topic is especially relevant now that WTA players are in the desert of Indian Wells, yesterday being the hottest day of the tournament so far.

Sun and heat tested WTA players’ stamina in Indian Wells on Sunday

In some places players have nice weather all year long, in other venues people are waiting for the summer time to get outside, to wear shorts and enjoy playing tennis. It doesn’t matter if you compete in sunny conditions regularly or you have to wait for these four hotter months, you have to be ready for that. Sun can be a more dangerous opponent than you think.

One of the skills that top players possess is adaptation: they know how to adapt when they have a bad day, they know what changes they have to make when the opponent wins the first set, and they also know that many things are not under their control, weather conditions being one of them. When the day is sunny we have to take proper approach to get the most of this opportunity. If we think about the sun as an obstacle that is going to hurt our game, we are going to underperform. On the other hand, if we take the sun as a tool to win the game, we will make decisions to use these conditions in our favor.

Caroline Garcia enduring the desert sun yesterday in Indian Wells

Sunny conditions are demanding, so proper preparation is crucial. Below I am giving you three areas that you should focus on to never again let this hot factor ruin your game.

1. PLAY DEFENSIVE SHOTS SMARTLY

During each game we are in offensive, neutral and defensive situations. Sun gives us a big opportunity to get out effectively from the defensive position and force the opponent to go for more risky shots. Every time you are in trouble, hit the ball up. It is really difficult to hit overhead or offensive shot while looking directly at the sun, so you will get a lot of time for recovery while your opponent will wait to let the ball bounce and move back.

2. TAKE MORE TIME BETWEEN SHOTS

This strategy is especially effective for players without solid endurance. If your fitness preparation is not great, sun will challenge you. Body gets tired quicker in hot environment, so it is important to take more time between points to rest, lower your heart rate and plan your next point. Top players have routines and they use them all the time to be perfectly prepared for the next ball. Wiping sweat away can buy you time and a cotton towel is a great item that you should incorporate into your routine to help you focus and make sure that your grip is not slippery.

Kiki Bertens protected by her Wilson visor yesterday at the BNP Paribas Open

3. HELP YOURSELF WITH ACCESSORIES

There are many great items available on the market that can help you play your best tennis in sunny conditions, such as hats/visors, head and wristbandsgrips, sunglasses. One little detail can decide who will win a match between two competitive players, so preparing before the match can make us play well from the first to the last ball.

Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website TennisIsland.us. He is also an author of Enjoy Tennis Blog. Marcin has been working with USTA, Top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. Currently he is working with Top 200 ITF female junior. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA. 

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