Does Tennis Equipment Need to Be Tweaked at Different Temperatures?

Barbara Haas of Austria hits a return to Timea Babos of Hungary during a 2016 U.S. Open match in New York on Aug. 30.

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Answer by Laurence Shanet, former college/satellite tennis player, tennis coach, USRSA certified stringer:

For a recreational player, there is little need to tweak your existing equipment. Contrary to what many players will tell you, research has shown that even fairly high-level players can’t distinguish string tension differences of up to 10 pounds when using blinded conditions. That said, there are a few ways your equipment will vary at different temperatures.

Racquet and strings: Your racquet does perform differently at different temperatures. The resilience of the strings decreases as temperature goes down, causing the perception of an increase in tension at colder temperatures. And the frame may also flex slightly differently. Unfortunately, if you only have one racquet, there’s not much to do about this.

However, if you’re a tournament-level player or lucky enough to own multiples of the same racquet, you could get them strung at a range of tensions and keep the variants with you so that you can switch if you like. Start by playing with the middle tension, and then you can go tighter or looser as desired. Generally, you will find that the higher the temperature rises, the more you’ll want to increase tension in order to keep things feeling the same. But these things vary by the type of string used and many other variables, so there isn’t any “formula” for it.

Balls: Since the balls tend to move slightly faster at higher temperatures (and may even bounce slightly higher), some tournaments may apply minor tweaks for extreme temperature variations. However, this option isn’t really available to consumers. It also isn’t really necessary, as only a truly elite player would be able to perceive any difference. Further, there are many other factors that would affect the feel of the ball, including humidity and altitude, so there’s really no point in even trying.

Shoes: At the pro level, some pros will use slightly different sole compounds in extreme temperatures on hard courts, with softer soles working better in cold temperatures and harder ones more appropriate for the highs. But for the most part, even the pros don’t bother with this, and neither should you. You don’t have much availability of different soles, and you wouldn’t notice it much anyway.

Bottom line: Don’t worry about it. There is no formula, and there are many other factors that will affect you more than the temperature. Unless you’re an elite, world-class player, there is no reason to give it a second thought, as your main concern will simply be staying hydrated and focused in all conditions, and worrying too much about your equipment will only be a distraction.

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