Summer is just around the corner and to the avid tennis player that means one thing, MORE TENNIS!!! During the summer months local parks and clubs swing into action, hosting a wide variety of tournaments and events to satisfy the appetites of players of all ages and levels. No more once a week doubles -----it's time to play!
If you are not a tournament player, you may well be reaching into your closet and pulling out your racket for the first time since last summer's club championships. In order to prepare properly for the upcoming outdoor season there are certain things you must do to insure a productive and healthy summer season.
Check Your Equipment It is important to be sure that your equipment is in the proper condition because faulty equipment can not only affect your play but also greatly increase the chance of injury. This means making sure your racket is undamaged and that the strings and grip are in good shape. If you notice any cracks in the frame, fraying of the strings or discoloration of the grip, you should consult a professional to see if they need to be replaced.
If you haven't played much since last summer it's probably a good idea to replace both your grip and string. A general rule of thumb says that you should get your racket restrung during the summer
season as many times as you play per week. Grips will wear out quickly during the hot summer season so they will need to be replaced more frequently.
Don't Forget Your Feet Tennis is a game of movement so you must make sure that your feet are up to the task. Check your shoes to
see if they are worn. Make sure the treads are good and that they still offer the proper support. Pay particular attention to the toe and heel areas and check the innersole. If any of these areas appear worn out, replace the shoe. In this age of specialization, make sure that your shoes are designed for tennis. I can't tell you how many times I see people playing tennis in running shoes. Running shoes are not designed for lateral movements and will not provide the support necessary for tennis.
Finally, when buying your shoes, consider the type of surface you play on as well as the type of player you are. For example, if you are a serve and volleyer and drag your toe when you serve, you want to make sure that your shoes have adequate protection toward the front of the shoe.
If you play on hard surfaces you will find that the court will become increasingly warm and thus may cause uncomfortable heat inside your shoe which can lead to blisters and fatigue. A shoe with nylon-mesh uppers will help to keep your feet cool.
If you frequently twist your ankle you may want to consider using a 3/4 or high top shoe as many of the pros are now wearing. Finally, remember to break your new shoes in slowly. Wear them around the house a few times so that you won't run the risk of painful blisters and sore feet.
Just as important as your shoes are your socks. Badly worn socks cause blisters and don't absorb the perspiration which is going
to occur during play. If your socks are worn, invest in a few new pairs of good athletic socks which will last the entire season.
Finally, make sure to use new, lively balls. Last year's balls
are sure to have lost their pressure and can cause wrist and arm injuries.
As you look forward to hitting the courts for the first time since last fall or increasing your play, it is also important to prepare your body for the rigors of the upcoming season.
Begin a stretching and strengthing program
Many early season injuries are caused as a result of stiff and\or out of shape muscles, particularly if you are an older player. If you begin to stretch and strengthen your muscles now, you will not only improve your play but also lessen the chance of injury. The key areas to focus on are the legs (calves, quadriceps and hamstrings), shoulders, back, abdominals, elbow, and wrist.
Build up your wind
Tennis is hard work so it is important that you build up your stamina. Running, walking, biking and swimming are all excellent ways to get your heart in shape for those tough three set matches.
When you hit the courts Take it easy. The first few times out the weather is apt to be quite cool. Make sure to wear proper warm-up clothing and to stretch out your muscles before and after you play. If you are stiff or sore the next day. don't worry, it's natural. Take a hot bath. If you pull a muscle don't ignore it. Take a day or two off and rest. If the pain doesn't go away in a few days, see your doctor. If your doctor can catch an injury in the early stages then there is a good chance you will be able to get back on the courts within a week.
If you have been playing throughout the winter, but do not live in a climate that allows year-round outdoor play, the move outside means having to deal with Mother Nature and she can often be your toughest opponent. The sun and wind can play as much a part in the outcome of a match as your opponent. In order to produce your best tennis you need to know how to deal with both factors:
Sun A bright sun makes hitting overheads and serves extremely difficult. You will have to adjust your service toss and maybe even your motion to compensate to the changing angles of the sun. To avoid losing sight of the ball, you may want to toss the ball lower or a bit more to the side and slice it, or try tossing it further behind you and hitting a kick serve.
Looking up into a bright sun makes hitting overheads quite difficult. You may want to try raising your non-racket arm to block out the sun on overheads or even let the lobs bounce and then smash them.
Be aware of where the sun is positioned and use it to your advantage. Don't hesitate to throw up a high lob if your opponent is looking into the sun. It may make your opponent lose sight of the ball and either force your opponent to let it bounce or they may miss the shot altogether.
Remember, if you are playing doubles and your partner is left-handed, neither of you have to serve into the sun. If, on one side of the court as you face the net to serve, the sun is at 2:00, the right handed player will be tossing right into the sun. So have the lefty serve from that side. When you switch sides the sun will be at
10:00 (or the non-tossing side) for the righty.
Also, wear a hat and perhaps, sunglasses. They'll not only help you to see the ball but they'll also protect you from the sun's rays.
Wind Playing on a windy day can make tennis quite an adventure. The wind not only blows against your face or at your back, but also blows across the court. Thus, the first thing you must do is check to see which way the wind is blowing. Look at the nearby trees or flags and note the way they are moving. Once you have determined the direction of the wind you can adjust and select your shots in a much more effective manner.
If you are hitting into the wind, keep in mind that you can hit your shots much harder and the wind will probably keep them in.
However, this also means that your opponent is hitting with the wind at his back and his shots will be coming back faster.
When the wind is at your back, take a shorter backswing but still follow through as you normally would. This will give you more control. The wind at your back will supply the power.
Don't hesitate to lob on a windy day. Yes, it is difficult but it is also just as, if not more, difficult for your opponent to hit overheads on a windy day.
Also be aware of any cross-winds. For example, if your opponent is at the net and the wind is blowing from your right to left and you are about to hit a forehand, go for a down the line passing shot and aim just for the line. The wind will make the ball curve back into the court after it has gone past your opponent.
More often than not, the only attention most players pay to the sun and the wind is to complain about them. By being aware of the elements and using them to your advantage you and "Mother Nature" will be a tough combination to beat.