Every tennis player understands just how much of an impact the weather can make on the game. Weather can play a factor at the highest level for a Grand Slam championship, or a local league at public courts. Part of being a tennis player is checking the weather the night before and during the hours leading up to the match, seeing if the courts are playable.
The biggest weather-related issue shows up when rain is in the forecast. Like any outdoor sport, rain can have a huge impact on how the game goes.
Can you play tennis in the rain? Tennis is playable in very light rain for a short amount of time on any surface. But, if the courts are too wet, the courts can be unplayable and there will be an increased injury risk.
How Does Each Surface Handle The Rain?
The three main surfaces in tennis (grass, hard court, and clay courts), all handle rain differently from each other. The type of surface a person is playing on will determine just how much leeway there is for having a chance to play during, or right after a storm hits.
Just a small amount of rain will make the grass courts unsafe to play on. Think of grass courts the same way as a backyard with some dew on it in the morning. Grass is pretty slick by nature, so adding a little bit of rain will put players at risk of slipping and falling. It is just one of the reasons why grass courts are fading away at the professional level, and virtually non-existent at the recreational level.
Most clubs that have grass courts also want to protect their grass as much as possible. They will likely shut down as soon as there is any rain falling, as a huge slip and fall could carve up the grass and cause a lengthy repair. Simply put, rain and grass don’t mix in tennis.
Hard courts can take a little bit of water, but a lot depends on the design. If properly slopped hard court helps to avoid puddle buildup on the court, and it will dry out relatively quickly. The first thing to get slippery is the lines, so players often check them to make sure that the court is playable.
If the slope is not correct on the hardcourt, there is a chance that a few nagging puddles can ruin an otherwise dry court. There are ways to remove that standing water, but it’s a much more drawn-out process.
Hardcourt tennis shoes have a solid amount of grip on them, so most people will play in a light drizzle. As soon as some slippage happens, that’s when it is time to pause the match and wait it out.
A clay court needs watering from time to time as part of its maintenance. An unwatered clay court becomes too dusty and dries out to create some crazy bounces. That’s why it should come as no surprise that they can take some water and still play consistently. It’s a major reason why the French Open decided to wait so long before finally adding a retractable roof to their main court.
Tennis on a clay court is the only way a person can play in steady rain. Obviously, tennis can’t be played during a torrential downpour, but the surface is still safe to play on as long as puddles are not forming.
Wearing clay court tennis shoes also help with grip on the court. For starters, make sure that everyone playing has plenty of treads left on their shoes. The traditional herringbone pattern will allow for people to still move around, grip the court when needed, and slide into shots as normal.
How Do Tennis Balls Handle The Rain?
Not only do court surfaces struggle with rain, but the balls are also unable to handle a ton of water. The good news is that tennis balls can handle a little bit of water, the same way it can handle sweat from players. With that being said, too much water will significantly change the way the tennis ball plays, and it will start to weigh quite a bit more.
If the balls get wet, it’s important to try to dry them off sooner rather than later. The more the water seeps into the rest of the ball, the harder it will be to dry out.
As soon as a ball becomes waterlogged, there is no recovery from that. If it hits a puddle or just a little bit of water is on the ball, bounce it around and hit it up in the air with some spin. It won’t take too long for it to mostly dry out. Continually playing with the ball will also help it dry out in no time.
A major storm with a lot of rain is a different scenario. The best thing to do is dry them out the same way and then lay them out in the sun if it comes back out. Use a different set of balls once the rain stops on that day, and use the dry ones next time if they still have a good amount of life left in them.
If they are practice balls, some people have had success throwing them in a drying machine when they go home. Another way to dry them out is to run a hairdryer on the ball from every angle. This can be a bit tedious if a person has a lot of different tennis balls that need to dry out, but it does work.
Why Is Playing On a Wet Court Risky?
The game of tennis relies on a lot of quick movements and changes of direction. If a player doesn’t have sure footing, they run the risk of slipping and falling at the very least. In a worst-case scenario, a person can suffer a pretty serious injury by losing their footing while trying to play tennis the same way they are used to.
If the risk of injury isn’t enough to make people stop playing, the quality of play is another reason why rain can ruin things. A wet court is going to provide inconsistent bounces. The ball can skid off the surface, or plop down and not bounce up if it hits a puddle. Players serving or hitting an overhead are forced to look straight into the rain falling, which more often than not results in less than stellar shots.
It’s advised to always check the lines first to see if the rain is affecting the surface just yet. This is the first place where the court gets slippery in most cases. Once it has rained and play has stopped, don’t get back on the court until it is dry enough to move around without any hesitation.
Some people make the mistake of trying to get out there too quickly, and even if there is no standing water, the surface can still be slightly slippery.
Drying Out The Court
At professional tournaments, facilities have every possible option when it comes to drying out the court. They can put a tarp on the court, bring out large fans, and have multiple people drying out the court at one time. This is the luxury of having a high budget and a grounds crew to rely on.
At the recreational level, it’s a little bit different. For starters, most clay court and grass court facilities are not gonna have much of anything to help dry out the court. Players are pretty much forced to wait until the court dries out on its own.
For hard courts, the most common solution included at the court is a roller. These rollers help to not only push standing water off the courts, but spread out the remaining water for faster evaporation. It can help speed up the process quite a bit, and it doesn’t take that much time either. Use multiple rollers at a time if available.
If someone has a towel or a leaf blower, these are other options to turn to when drying out the court. A towel only works for a stubborn spot or two that is holding water. It is tedious work to soak up the water and then squeeze it out elsewhere, but it helps the drying out process tremendously. Just about every tennis player has a towel to use as well.
A leaf blower is a very convenient tool to have at the tennis court when wet, but the court usually needs an electrical outlet to use it properly.
Also, make sure to bring a long extension court, because it is useless if it can’t cover the entire court. Put the leaf blower on high and move around on the court to allow it to work its magic. It isn’t the fastest solution in the world, but it does work.
These tools all help dry out the court, but the best tool of them all is, of course, the sun. If rain hits during the summer months in the middle of the day, it will evaporate at a much faster rate than cold rain at night. Most tennis players start to develop a good idea of how long it takes for their favorite courts to dry out.
How Does a Rain Delay Change Play?
Anyone who has followed tennis for a while understands that rain has played a huge role in tennis history. A player can be playing terribly in the first part of the match, and then a storm hits.
This break in the action is useful to go over strategy, recover physically, and more. Many professional players have benefitted from this unforeseen break, and it has even altered Grand Slam finals.
Rain also greatly affects the game at the recreational level as well. A rain delay could break up a match, allowing a poorly played first half to be completely forgotten. Maybe the match is finished an hour later, or at a later date altogether. Unfortunately, a rain delay also works differently, killing the momentum of a player playing at a high level.
Maximize a rain delay by resting as much as possible, thinking about strategy, putting a new overgrip on a racquet, and more. It’s never fun to have to deal with a rain delay, but if it does end up happening, a player might as well make the most of it.
Final Tips On Dealing With Rain
Every single outdoor sport, or activity for that matter, can be ruined by poor weather. Even in traditionally dry climates, everyone experiences rain once in a while.
Make sure to never assume that a match is going to be postponed or canceled because the forecast is calling for rain. There is a chance that the storm shifts, or it dries out in time for play to start on time. As soon as a person believes they aren’t playing, it can be difficult to get that focus back. Consider the match to still be played on time until it is officially changed.
On top of that, be prepared for inclement weather before heading to the courts. If rain is in the forecast, it’s worth throwing in a towel and/or a leaf blower if available. Maybe it rains too much that it won’t make a difference, but having the tools available can save a lot of time.
Last but not least, if it rains, it rains. As much as every tennis player would love perfect weather conditions on every single match day, that’s never going to be the case. Eventually, everything will dry out and tennis can be resumed at some point.