08 May I can’t play on this court!
Every third ball has a weird bounce. They watered the court too much, it’s too wet and the ball has no speed. It’s slippery. The lines look funny. I’m not going to play on this patch of dirt anymore. These are sentences and excuses I hear from kids on the tennis court on a daily basis. Not just with the younger ones in the 14 years and younger category, but even with youths and lower level professionals
Depending on the speed of tennis play, the surface plays an important part. If you miss the ball by a few hundreds of a second, you won’t hit it where you wanted. Tennis is a demanding sport and there are a myriad of different surfaces. How a myriad, you ask? There’s only the hard surface, clay, grass and carpet… Take the professional tennis players as an example. They play tournaments across the world and switch play surfaces and continents on a weekly basis. They say that no two surfaces are completely the same. The same goes for you and the area where you play tennis matches. Even by going to the next club over, the clay court surface is prepped in a different way and so playing tennis there is slightly different.
All that is identical to your court, the one you practice on, are the dimensions of the court and the height of the net (well, it’s supposed to be, but we all know that it’s unfortunately not always the case). The dimensions are the same, whether it’s the central court in Wimbledon or in your club on court number XY. The dimensions are always the same, and so are the diagonals and straight lines. The fact is, is that many players are »world champions«, when it comes to playing cross-court and down-the-line shots on their home court, where they are used to the conditions, where their coach or sparring partner always plays the same type of ball, which they then play perfectly from a ready position. But the trick is to get used to a slightly different environment as quickly as possible and accept the »different« court, which has the same dimensions as the one, where you feel superior and comfortable.
But how to adapt to a court and forget about the differences? First you just have to accept the fact that the measurements, the diagonals and straight lines are the same on all courts. All of this is the same. The only difference is, how capable you are at adapting to a situation. My suggestion is, to use the given circumstances to your advantage and adapt the tactics accordingly. During severe heat and on a harder surface, you’ll play differently than on wet and soft clay in the rain, right? You have to adapt physically as well. In order to make a successful shot, you have to do more or less with your legs, depending on the play surface. Maybe you’ll have to adapt your shot preparation as well (turn, swing, height of ready stance etc…). On faster surfaces, the style of play gets faster and the number of errors increases, when compared to slower surfaces. Because of this, many players start to experience problems in the mental side of their game. Even altitude, humidity and balls can affect a good stroke (but these differences are more noticeable by professional players)
There are many things you have to adapt to. If you think in terms of all that is different from your »practice« court, then your mental preparedness will be at a low point even before the start of the match. Can you accept the fact that an unpredictable bounce is only a part of today’s match, but the bigger challenge for you is to pay closer attention to the ball and to try to get in a better shot position? Are you, for example, capable of accepting a higher number of errors, if you are used to playing on clay with minimal errors? Can you adapt to this without getting upset?
There is only one answer. You have to, if you’re hoping for a positive outcome of the match. The circumstances are the same for both your opponent and yourself. In that moment there’s no point in thinking, who is better adapted to the conditions, the only important thing is, how you’ll face the current situation. It’s your stance, your focus and desire for the next shot that will determine, how you mentally start the match. Will you go »all in« to show how much you know, how well you’re familiar with the dimensions and attack to win, or will you be afraid of defeat and looking to blame it on the court? The decision is completely up to you!
If you are looking for perfect conditions for tennis, you will always find something wrong.