Tennis is a tough game, but there are a number of outside conditions that can make it a lot tougher. The most common is wind. But the sun, court surface, background and lighting can also wreak havoc on your normal game. All of these can cause exceptional difficulties for the mentally weak, but they can actually help the mentally strong.
Outside conditions can disrupt your normal standard of play. You will make more errors than usual, and there will be a strong tendency to become frustrated and angry.
Thoughts will come into your mind such as, I never miss shots like that, or if it wasn’t for this wind I’d kill this guy, or even, the sun is blinding me on my serve! Yes, this is natural, and yes, if you do it you are likely to lose.
It is most important to reset your error thermostat. When the wind is blowing and players make bizarre and unexpected errors, there is a tendency to become frustrated and emotionally hyperreactive. You must consciously counter this tendency. Resetting involves recognizing beforehand that you will make extra errors and then becoming determined to accept this. If you do, the conditions may even help you because your opponent usually won’t be as prepared.
Below are a few adjustments that can help you in windy conditions.
Be prepared to move more and hit less precisely than usual.
Use a shorter backswing. The ball will be moving somewhat unpredictably, and by the time you get your racquet around, it may blow out of your strike zone.
Use more topspin when playing with the wind, and hit flatter against it.
Hit the ball relatively hard because the faster the ball moves, the less time the wind will have to act on it.
Use topspin lobs against the wind and high defensive lobs with it.
Get more first serves in by playing safer. In wind, use spin rather than hard, flat serves.
The sun is the second most common difficulty, especially around midday. It can temporarily blind you when you are serving or hitting overheads. So you’ll have to experiment with your toss to keep it out of the sun as best as you can. You will just have to shorten your backswing and be prepared to scramble out of a disadvantaged position on that first groundstroke.
On the other hand, don’t forget your opponent’s difficulties when he or she is on the sunny side. Use your lob more when your opponent comes to the net and be a little more aggressive when returning serve, since your opponent will still be trying to recover from looking into the sun. Finally, don’t let your opponent escape quickly or easily from the sunny side. A prolonged turn in an unpleasant situation is mentally wearing and will weaken your opponent.
If the court is slippery, it pays for you to take a bit more risk right away to get control of the point. You want your opponent off-balance and out of position, rather than setting up comfortably and putting you in trouble. Think about striking first and pulling your opponent wide or wrong-footing him or her. Basically, you want to take charge of the point so your opponent can’t.
In any of these situations, you can make positive tactical adjustments, but your mental adjustment is far more important. Attitude is the key. Recognize that solving these issues is simply part of the game. The Gods are not conspiring against you. You will have problems but so will your opponent. The world, on or off the court, has its realities, and it’s not obligated to be the way you want it to be, so accept it unemotionally. If you remain cool headed, the problems are largely solvable.