On the Court: Tennis at 8,000 feet
July 31, 2006
One of the intriguing and challenging aspects of tennis is how drastically the sport changes depending on the surface on which it is played. Books have been written about how to adapt one’s tactics to either hard, clay, grass or carpet courts.Tennis at altitude – no matter the surface – provides just as much variation. Here are a few tips on how to adjust your game to 8,000 feet. Hit hard, aim conservatively: Balls fly quicker in the mountains. A hard shot, even if not terribly deep, is effective and will often draw errors or weak replies. Make sure to aim well inside the lines, however. The ball flies farther, so you need a wide margin for error. When in doubt, go hard down the middle. Use slice: At sea level, slices change pace and can often cause fits for opponents who hit with heavy topspin. At altitude, a slice has added bite, moving through the court even faster. Be careful though – slices often sail long in thin, dry air. Serve and volley on spin serves only: Added pace makes moving in behind flat, first serves tempting. But faster serves also result in the ball coming back quicker, too – meaning you hit your first volley farther back in the court, which limits angles and increases the likelihood of low, shoestring volleys. Put a premium on spin and placement when coming in. End points quickly: Visualize winning, two-shot combinations (Serve, cross-court forehand; sharp return, followed by ghost charge into net). Before a point begins, you should always have a plan to win it quickly. Then adjust if the point doesn’t go according to plan. Your added pop at altitude will mean more good shots are rewarded with easily anticipated replies. Besides, fatigue and added pace make consistent, neutral hitting difficult in thin air.