Indoor tennis courts are a rare find in Houston, as our winters here are very mild and offer us tennis fanatics year-round outdoor play. And if you’re an outdoor player like myself, but happen to be in a league that has a team or two with indoor courts, there are some things you should definitely know prior to your match(es).
Players who don’t play indoors might at first think it’s no different than playing outdoors, except there is a roof or some other enclosure. But that’s only part of it. Indoor tennis courts also have their own unique playing conditions that take time (more than just a couple of points) to get used to.
Players who are accustomed to playing indoors have a distinct advantage over those who normally play outdoors, and here is why, and what you can do about it:
FASTER COURTS. Indoor courts typically play faster than outdoors. The actual court surface will be truer – since the outdoor elements such as sun, wind and weather are not an issue in promoting court deterioration.
- WHAT TO DO: Be prepared to step up your game with quicker back-swings and follow-through.
OVERHEAD COVERING. The biggest change when playing indoors is the roof – all of a sudden there is one. The lob is now your enemy. Players who are not familiar with indoor tennis are nearly automatically intimidated by the ceiling height and very often can’t measure the correct height on lobs.
- WHAT TO DO: I only do defensive lobs indoors, however, if you love to lob, go ahead and hit it hard, but with more top spin. This should keep it out of reach of your opponent, while staying clear of the ceiling. The top spin will also bring the ball down faster so that your opponent will really have to hustle in order to get it back before they hit the back wall.
COURT DIVIDERS. Along with the ceiling, many indoor courts may have dividers – walls of netting that separate the courts. These are particularly frustrating as this netting is only a couple of feet from the outside line of the alleys, making running out wide for a defensive shot nearly impossible.
- WHAT TO DO: If you can, use angled shots to your advantage — and be ready for your opponent to do the same to you.
LIGHTING. Lighting is also a huge factor indoors. Outdoors, sunny is sunny overcast is overcast, but indoor lighting is totally different. It can be too bright, or too dark, and can even vary from one extreme to another within the same facility.
- WHAT TO DO: The only thing you can do here is get used to it, just like you do the sun and clouds. If it bothers you while serving, adjust your stance and/or the positioning and height of your toss.
NOISE. Lastly is the noise. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. Again, the external elements are greatly minimized, so there won’t be any loud music coming from the picnic area, or cars honking, or occasional sirens blaring. But there will be unfamiliar sounds which get “magnified” by the surrounding cement walls and hard-court floor, like high powered air conditioning/heating fans, players communicating on other courts, and the sound of not just your ball, but pretty much every ball in play, as it hits a racket and the court.
- WHAT TO DO: The only thing you can really do here is just keep your eye on the ball. That will help your ears pick out the sound of just your ball. It’ll also help you focus more on the game.
If you’re an indoor newbie, or play indoors on rare occasions, these tips won’t guarantee a win, but they will help you adapt faster to the court conditions and give you a better chance.
Have you played on indoor courts? What was it about them that took the most getting used to?