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Play The Conditions

An often under appreciated factor in tennis matches is playing the conditions. Now, some of you have figured out that playing in the wind is somehow different than playing when it's still. On a windy day, the ball moves unexpectedly forcing you to have better footwork then on normal days. In addition, some of you have figured out that on windier days it's more difficult to pass and therefore are using such conditions in order to play a more aggressive game on that particular day. 

However, there are other conditions that you should be aware of. For example, how many of you have identified the "tilt" of the court? Each court is designed differently in order to allow for drainage. Some tilt North-to-South (i.e. end to end) - making it easier to hit serves into one side of the court while the ball might sail just long over the side - or East-to-West (i.e. side to side) - making it easier to hit slices, kick serves or heavy top-spins on one side of the other. It is important to identify the tilt of the court in order to determine how to use it to your advantage against your opponent's weakness. For example, if the court angles downhill towards the Ad-side of the court, it may be useful to throw in more kick-serves on that side in order to force the opponent to return high balls from "downhill". Switch sides, and the same tilt is now on the Deuce side of the court where you could use it to hit some nasty slice serves. Similarly, when the courts tittle N-to-S, the downhill slope may push some players to, inadvertently, play further back than normal. Use that factor to your advantage by pushing your opponent deep and the swinging them side to side (or making them run in with drop-shots). 

Other conditions to be aware of are: 1) distractions - is one side of the court closer to the tournament desk, road, etc? If so, maybe you can elect to serve, receive, side in such a manner that the opponent will have to serve from that side at the critical 3-3 game. 2) Does one side have better windscreens than another one making it easier to "pick up" the ball? Not every court is center court at Wimbledon. Some sides of the court don't have windscreens at all making it hard to see the ball. Public parks are often notorious for having poor windscreens. If you're the returner, you want to be in the best position to see the ball every time. Even though this is not possible on every game, maybe you should arrange your coin-toss selection in such a way that you're serving at 3-3 with no windscreen behind you (and the opponent is serving from where you can see the ball). 3) Are there cracks or dead spots in the court? Figure out where they are and aim for them. You never know when you get a lucky bounce in your favor? 4) Is it hot, humid, did the opponent have a long match prior to yours? Make a conscious effort to keep your opponent working hard for the first 3-4 games. Send a message that you're willing to stay out there as long as it takes. 5) Is it sunny, shady, slippery, altitude, uneven, etc? Is the net tight, loose, high or low? Are the fences closer to the court than normal? 

You must survey the court like a general surveys a battlefield before war. You do not want to have any surprises when you walk on the court. Make a conscious effort to understand the terrain and set some objectives for using it to your advantage. Remember that a BAD strategy is better than NO strategy at all. You can always change the BAD strategy but it's much harder to come up with one "on the fly".

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