This is where choice comes in. Vanity is mere illusion, a form of false pride quite prevalent in tennis. There is often some expectation of an aesthetically appealing experience. Then, along comes the wind to turn everything ugly. But consider: do basketball players apologize for the artistic quality of a tip-in? Since when is tennis judged like gymnastics or figure skating?
And so, knowing that my opponents’ discomfort, I opted to embrace the wind. I leaned in (but not over). Along with attitude come practical aspects. Since the ball will take many last-minute twists, it’s wise to put even more emphasis on aggressive footwork, and employ those little adjustment steps prior to contact. It’s also best to think less about angles and clever spins and instead focus on hitting deep and flat, aiming only slightly crosscourt rather than sharply to the corners. In other words, think of the court more like a bowling alley than a big rectangle.
With the wind at your back, a bit more topspin helps control the ball—and you should rarely drop shot from this position. On the other hand, against the wind, a well-struck drop shot can work magic so long as you don’t flirt with the sideline. You can also aim your drives deeper.
Lobs are also valuable on windy days, but of course, it’s critical to gauge the direction of the wind, be it behind you (tricky), against you (delightful), or, more complicated, those uncertain crosswinds.
As for the serve, a bit more deliberation before starting the motion will come in handy—otherwise you might just toss the ball and direct it into oblivion.
Should you charge the net or volley on a windy day? A former Wimbledon champion who’s a great volleyer told me that because playing in the wind makes it extremely difficult to volley with precision—be it short, angled, or soft—a net rusher can become a sitting duck. Then again, a baseliner who also won Grand Slam titles thinks threading the needle with passing shots on a windy day is no picnic. Perhaps it’s best to find your own comfortable mix. Don’t retreat, but maybe it’s best to come in well aware of which way the wind is blowing and seek to aim serves, approach shots and volleys accordingly. The last thing you want to do is be in attacking position and hit the ball wide.
Overheads demand excessive attention—everything from footwork to watching the ball even closer than usual. On the tactical and technical front, think of the wind as similar to driving on a rainy day: attentive and deliberate.
But the bigger challenge is in your mind. As Martina Navratilova has often said, “In tennis there are only two things you can control—your toss and your attitude.”