The winter season is coming and this unfortunately means no outdoor tennis anymore, except for those who are extremely brave or have Scandinavian genes. All tennis players who play actively have this sorrow in their eyes when outside temperatures start to drop. This is a clear sign that the game of tennis won’t be the same in the months to come. Some players prefer to make a pause during winter while others choose to train hard to get ready for the next season. Choosing to continue training can be very rewarding as those who keep on playing throughout the winter have an opportunity to surprise their opponents who chose to hibernate and take a long winter’s nap.
When playing in the cold, we do need to dress accordingly. There is a tendency to keep playing in shorts and light t-shirts, even when temperatures start to drop significantly. It’s very dangerous to play tennis in the cold if you are not dressed properly. As soon as the game gets going, our bodies start to sweat and this can become an issue during longer changeovers or parts of the match where there is not enough pace or long rallies to keep us warm.
The rule of the thumb is to dress in layers. There are specialty clothes for tennis, designed for this purpose. The apparel is lightweight, fits snugly and doesn't hinder your movement on the court. You can still wear shorts if you like it, but do wear compression pants too. Another item that is extremely important is headware. Find a comfortable winter cap or similar headwear to wear during matches. We lose a lot of heat there, and also our hair can get really wet so it’s extremely important to protect your head while playing..
Training in winter conditions requires a more elaborate warm up procedure in order to avoid possible injuries. Injuries such as “pulled muscles” can occur more frequently in cold weather. Take at least 15-20 minutes of warm up, don’t rush into playing. You can run circles around the court and then try following lines of the service boxes to get moving in all the directions, simulating play. Take your time playing mini tennis, before moving to the baseline.
Here are some neat winter warm up tricks you could try out:
Ride a bike to the tennis courts venue
Run in place or jump rope
Soak your hands under hot water in the dressing room for a few minutes, before hitting the courts
Use thin gloves if your hands are extremely cold on the court and you can’t get them warmed up any other way
Put on a jacket during changeovers
Drop in temperature will inevitable change the game of tennis and this is something you should all be prepared for. As the temperature drops, the tennis balls start to bounce lower than usual. If you are playing on clay courts, the surface will be damp and balls will start to soak moisture. This will make the balls feel harder when hitting. Due to increased weight, the bounce will be even lower. It will be more difficult to hit deep shots. Strings shrink in cold weather and feel tighter. You can compensate for this by dropping your string tension a bit when stringing for the winter. This will help you with the feeling and shots depth. It is highly recommended to open a new can of balls for every match you play in cold weather. This will help both players to somewhat counter the effects of cold weather on the gameplay. When playing in cold, some shots work much better than others. Drop shot and slice works great. It’s very hard to run down those shots as the ball bounce is much lower than usual. Also, shots that are hit a bit flat (serve or forehand for example) can skid on the court and stay low to the ground, and those shots will be very difficult for your opponent to return.
As soon as the match is over you should put on your jacket, gloves and any other extra clothing layers you have around. Do this before you start packing your tennis bag or cleaning up courts (in case you play on clay). As soon as you are off the courts, change all your wet clothes in the dressing room. Bring along a full set of spare clothes and don’t go outside if you haven’t changed everything, including shoes.
Playing tennis during winter season can certainly be very rewarding and present a great opportunity for you to boost your game. You can train and work on the shots technique in order to get ready for the spring season. As long as you take necessary precautions when playing in cold temperatures, everything should be fine. Make a list of things you wish to improve in your game, practice with your sparing partner or coach and then surprise your opponents with your new skills set when you meet them next time.