Can you Play Tennis in the Cold? 9 Tips for Playing Tennis in Cold Weather

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I remember when I was back in school…

You knew summer was right around the corner when the tennis nets were put up. Everyone was so excited to bring in their rackets the next day. It truly was an amazing time.

Then, before you knew what happened, the nets were down, and winter was upon us.

However, just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you can’t play tennis. You’ve just got to be smarter and more prepared about it.

This is what we’re going to discuss today. We’ll be answering that age-old question on whether or not you can play tennis in the cold.

Let’s jump right in.

9 Tips for Playing Tennis in Cold Weather

Warm-Up

When playing tennis in winter, it’s just as, if not more important to warm up sufficiently. This will take slightly longer given the lower temperature. That said, it’s extremely important that you’re muscles are ready to play if you want to reduce the chance of injury.

According to the Hospital of Special Surgery, cold weather is known to decrease muscle flexibility, and therefore increase your chance of sustaining a muscle related injury.

Performing a 10–15-minute warm up routine should help to negate these risks. Run, jump, stretch, what ever you need to do to get your body ready for exercising in the cold.

An example warm up could be:

  • 5-minute aerobic exercise – running on the spot, star jumps/jumping jacks.
  • Dynamic stretching – leg circles, arm circles, spinning rotations.
  • Light warm up rally – hit the ball back and forth lightly with your training partner.

While we’re always eager to get on the court and have a match, especially when it’s cold, this is probably the most important step.

A good warm up will not only reduce your chance of injury but allow your body to perform better when on the court.

Dress Appropriately for Playing in Cold Weather

Just as you would with any other outdoor activity in the winter, dress appropriately.

Below are a few considerations to make when choosing your tennis attire for cold weather.

Gloves

While gloves don’t go hand-in-hand (pun intended) with tennis, it’s important to protect your extremities when outside in the winter.

Having warm hands will allow a better grip of your racket which in turn will allow you to perform better. I also find having a comfortable overgrip on my racket helps a lot with this as well.

Plus, it will hurt a lot less should you accidentally take a ball to a finger.

Alternatively, you can always use hand warmers should you not love the idea of wearing gloves when playing tennis – which is completely fair enough. You can keep these in your racket bag and use them between games.

Appropriate Material

When playing tennis in cold weather, I like to layer up. This way, I can continue to remove layers as my body temperature rises.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to wear a moisture wicking base layer. This will help to prevent any sweat from being absorbed into the t-shirt. This is extremely important, as having wet clothes in cold weather is a big no-no.

You can then wear additional layers on top, which can be removed as you see fit.

Beanie

I don’t know about you, but my ears tend to hurt when exposed to cold temperatures for more than 10-minutes.

For that reason, I like to wear a beanie or winter hat whenever I’m playing tennis and it’s cold outside. This in turn allows me to focus on playing tennis, rather than the throbbing pain on either side of my head.

Shoes

During wintertime, the court is often wet. With that in mind, be sure to wear a pair of tennis shoes that offer a good amount of grip. This will allow you to move around the court, without slipping over.

Even though it’s cold outside, the chances are you’re going to break a sweat when playing tennis. Make sure you change out of your wet clothes as soon as possible. This will help to prevent your body temperature from dropping too low.

Wear Sunglasses

There’s a couple of reasons why it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses when playing tennis in the cold.

Firstly, the sun is lower during the winter months, which can be very annoying when trying to play tennis. Having a good pair of polarized tennis sunglasses will help to improve your vision. There’s nothing worse than going to serve, only to fault due to not having a proper site of the ball.

Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, it’s often wet on the court during the winter. Wearing sunglasses will help to protect your eyes from the sun reflecting off the surface of the court.   

Check the Court Surface

Before you head out for your match, make sure the surface of the court is safe to play on. If you’re playing in the depths of winter, double and triple check that there’s no ice on the court. If there is, it’s probably worth waiting until the ice has melted.

Or… ice skating tennis seems like a sport waiting to happen.

What Shots Work Best in Cold Weather?

For the longest time, I always wondered whether cold weather affects tennis balls. And the answer is yes.

When playing in cold weather, you’ll notice that tennis balls have much less bounce. While this can take a bit of getting used to, there are a few ways in which you can utilize this to your advantage.

  • Drop shot – this can be lethal when you’re opponent is close to their baseline. The reduced ball bounce will mean they have much less time to return the ball. They better hope they’re quick!
  • Slice – again, the opponent is going to have less time to read the ball and position themselves correctly to return.
  • Flat/ slice serve – harder in general to return as they’ll need to get lower on the ball and have less time to react. Works especially well against players who have not played much tennis in cold weather.

Winter tennis often means a lot more movement compared to playing in the summer months. Both you and your opponent will find yourselves covering every inch in order to compensate for the lack of bounce in the ball.

Not only will you be all over the place, but you’ll need to be quick about it too.

Prepare to Lose a bit of Power

Tennis balls are not the only piece of gear going to be affected by the cold. The cold weather is going to have a pretty big impact on your strings as well. Often, strings will become a lot stiffer when exposed to lower temperatures.

Pair this with a ball with much less bounce, and you’re going to lose a good bit of power. Of course, you can always hit the ball harder, but at the risk of sacrificing technique.  

One way to combat this is to lower your string tension. This can be a pain if you’ve only got one racket, but if you’ve got a few, having a racket prepped for the winter is a great idea. You can always switch to softer strings as well, which should help to combat the lack of power.

I’d recommend checking out multifilament or natural gut strings if you’re planning to play a lot throughout the winter.

Improvise a Tennis Net

Throughout the winter months, most recreational tennis courts take down their nets. This, of course, is a problem.

One way you can circumvent this problem is to improvise your own tennis net. Just use a bit of tape, wrap it around one pole, then wrap it around the other. For reference, a tennis net should be 3ft high in the centre.

Both you and your training partner will need to be honest whether the ball went over or under, but it’s better than nothing.

Of course, be sure to take this down once you’ve finished.

Try and Find an Indoor Tennis Court

In order to avoid all the above steps, the best solution is to find an indoor tennis court. Then you don’t need to worry about strings, ball bounce reduction or wearing winter clothes.

Simply turn up, play as usual and head on home.

Keep Hydrated

The last point I want to touch upon applies to playing tennis in all conditions. KEEP HYDRATED.

This means drinking sufficient water before, during and after you play. This will help regulate body temperature, lubricate joints and help you to recover from exercise in a multitude of different ways.  

Final Thoughts

The sun may not be shining, but don’t be afraid to get out there and get training. Playing tennis in cold weather is an annoyance but shouldn’t stop you from getting those valuable hours in on the courts.

Hopefully, you’ve got a better understanding of whether or not you can play tennis in cold weather.

Thanks for stopping by!

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