How to Adapt from Indoor Tennis to Outdoor Tennis

indoor courts

Today’s Guest Post is from Coach Todd Widom.

As the Orange Bowl Boys and Girls 16’s and 18’s International Tournament in South Florida is coming to a close, and the Boys and Girls 12’s and 14’s are getting  underway, it is important to note there are some players that come from different climates to play in this prestigious event.  I coach players who come to South Florida from the northeast that have to learn to adapt their games to be able to succeed outdoors.  This is also going to be true for all the players that are heading out to Arizona for the winter nationals that are coming from indoor tennis training.  I am seeing a lot of similarities in the way these junior players are playing and constructing points, and if they do not make the necessary adjustments from indoor to outdoor tennis, they are not going to be too successful in an outdoor climate.

The students I train know my tennis background and know that I was trained by some very tough Argentine disciplinarian coaches, who produced some of the best professionals and also some of the best amateurs in this country over the past thirty plus years.  In this day and age of technology, YouTube videos, and over coaching are what players may use to learn how to adapt to tennis outdoors.  This article is about the different issues I see with the players coming from indoor tennis and trying to adapt to outdoor tennis, which tends to be very difficult.  Remember, everything that these young players do, whether it is good or bad is a habit, so this transition from indoor tennis to outdoor tennis is not easy for many kids.

Before I go over the way a player should adapt their game to outdoors, one of the most important details we speak about is court positioning and movement.  It is very common for a player coming from playing indoors to crowd the baseline.  Unless you have the timing and eye hand coordination of James Blake or Andre Agassi, it is going to be very difficult to maintain enough tennis balls in a row to work the point effectively against your opponent.  What needs to be worked on is the player standing a couple of feet behind the baseline and constantly moving in and out of the baseline.  Recovering to a couple of feet behind the baseline after each shot is crucial so that the player does not get stuck half volleying the ball when their opponent hits a deep ball.

Beautiful technique and pretty strokes are very nice to have, but if you do not have a high level of fitness, your legs and strokes will break down.  Playing indoor tennis does not require the athlete to have a very high level of fitness.  The conditions indoors are controlled and there are no additional elements affecting your shots like the sun, wind, heat, and even humidity.  When playing indoors, where the ball is hit is where it will end up since there is no wind affecting the ball.  To build the fitness to compete outdoors takes at least a couple of weeks to a month of intense training, in order to be able to handle the outdoor conditions.

On an indoor court, a player can hit through the court with greater ease due to the speed of the court and there being the absence of outdoor elements.  Many times, I will place some targets on the court because we are working on depth of shot, because the indoor player is most likely pounding the ball big but a foot or two past the service line.  Playing the ball that short outdoors does not do much; however, playing the ball a bit higher over the net is the key to secure hitting those targets.  Depending on how a particular player hits the ball will determine the height and spin they will put on the ball in order to be successful.  For example, a player that has a game modeled after Maria Sharapova will play a bit higher over the net, but they will still hit through the ball.  If you tell this particular player to play high and heavy, you are taking this person out of their game that they are good at and that could negatively impact their game up for quite a while.  A player for example like Rafael Nadal will need to adjust their game to play much higher and heavier over the net if this particular player was coming from indoor to outdoor tennis.  As you can tell, the way the person is going to transition from indoor tennis to outdoor tennis significantly depends on their style of play and what they are already good at.

After some great drills outdoors, the next important step is watching the player construct points.  Many times, a player coming from indoor tennis needs to learn how to construct the point and stick to a very black and white pattern of play.  The indoor player can be very trigger happy and go for big low percentage shots because that is what is promoted indoors on very fast courts.  On indoor courts if you do not get the first strike, your opponent will, and you will be the one on the defensive and kept running.  This is not so much the case with outdoor tennis, as the shot tolerance of the indoor player needs to be much higher because one great shot many times does not win you the point playing outdoors.  Tennis players must understand the strategies and the angles of the court for them to be successful outdoor players.  Seeing the open court and ripping the ball to that location is not always the prudent play outdoors.  This is where the player needs to have a high tennis IQ, be able to transition their game to the outdoors and be able to break down their opponents mentally and physically.  Certainly, the indoor player needs to have a very high level of fitness to have the ability to maintain enough balls per point outdoors, whereby they can execute their strategy properly.

Another aspect that I frequently see  is  the indoor player has a bit of trouble generating their own pace  due to the lack of elements indoors, plus the speed of the court to hurt their opponents.  This is not the case outdoors where you must use your body efficiently, from your core to the ground, along with understanding the proper mechanics in accelerating the racket which will generate pace on the ball.  If you have trouble generating your own pace, you will be a defensive player that must be smart and move incredibly well.  Of course, if you are trying to generate more pace on your shots, you need to be in excellent physical condition, since you will be exerting more force into the ball by using your body, which in turn could cause fatigue much sooner if you are not in optimal condition.

In closing, it is a much easier adjustment coming from outdoor to indoor tennis compared to indoor to outdoor tennis.  All too often I see players coming from indoor tennis and trying to have great results in an outdoor climate with only a day or two to prepare for an outdoor tournament.  It is not realistic for these players coming from the indoor arena to have great results with minimal preparation time.  Ideally, the athlete coming from indoor tennis should have a minimum of a couple weeks of preparation before they attempt to play in an outdoor tournament.  As many parents and players do all too often, they roll the dice before an outdoor tournament and hope for great results, or you can prepare wisely which gives you the best chance to have some great results in a different environment.

8 Comments on “How to Adapt from Indoor Tennis to Outdoor Tennis”

  1. What are tips for going outdoor to indoor? Players have less chance to practice indoors-very limited indoor practice at indoors tournaments.

  2. Comment from Coach Bobby Bayliss: “One thing I used with our teams was to buy some inexpensive ear plugs. We practiced with ear plugs for several days before our first outdoor competition because most people are used to the clear unfiltered sounds of the ball coming off the strings and use it in their anticipation. This forces greater concentration. Not a big deal, but sometimes every little bit can help…..”

  3. “Ideally, the athlete coming from indoor tennis should have a minimum of a couple weeks of preparation ”

    Lisa, a couple of weeks? And what does one do with school…

    “Sorry, I will be missing a couple of weeks to train outdoors, so I know we are only allowed to miss ten days for the entire school year which includes being ill, funerals, and oh… playing tennis, but I will be breaking that rule.”

    Folks, pull your kid out of school, and maybe .01% ( probably much less) will be professional tennis players, and the rest will be unhappy adults feeding tennis balls at an academy.

    1. Tennis5,
      Thanks so much for your thoughts on my article. The article was about how to properly prepare for tournaments and also how to adjust your game coming from indoor to outdoor tennis. I agree that if you have trouble missing days of school, you may not want to come to an outdoor tournament if you are coming from indoors because you will not be properly prepared to perform well and have great results. In terms of pulling children out of school to play tennis and then feeding balls at academies for the rest of their lives, is probably not happening for children that are guided properly and that is a parenting and coaching decision. For example, I have trained multiple kids who have been home schooled and are playing number one on their Ivy League teams. Academically they would have never been able to get into these schools without their superior tennis skills that were trained over many grueling hours of practice and tournament play. They came to me already home schooling. I do not push anyone into home schooling as that is a personal decision the student and their families make. If you would like, I have an article on parentingaces about home school vs traditional schooling. Going back to home schooling, the players I have had the opportunity to train that are playing for Ivy League teams are going to have incredible opportunities that other children could only dream of. There are many articles that speak about this. I personally know most of the gentlemen that are spoken about in this article. I think you will enjoy it. Thanks for taking the time to read my article.

  4. Tennis5 – Who says non-traditional school is purely to achieve professional status? I know lots of families that have chosen to pull their kids out of school. Some for sports, and others because they felt the schools that they were pegged into due to their home address provided substandard education, or was a gladiator factory. Many public schools have given up trying to provide direction, or discipline to the students and let the inmates run the asylum.

    My family chose to “home school” which is a misnomer in our case as the curriculum was the state of Florida’s, and the instructors were state certified teachers. At no time did I, or my wife, undertake to become our child’s primary educator for core courses. I reserved that for ancillary things that we felt worth imparting to our progeny.

    Our motivation was to allow for the requisite time for sport training, school, homework, and social interaction. Traditional school requires 8-hours per day, plus get-ready time, and two-way travel. Why do they need 8-hours? Because they must teach to the lowest common denominator in each class. Even the “advanced” classes do this. In a class of 20 very smart kids, there is still not parity, so the instructor must get everyone onboard with the lesson before proceeding.

    I used distance learning a decade ago for post-grad classes and loved it. If I got the material, I moved on immediately. If I got stuck, I could take more time when needed, but only if needed.

    If we hadn’t included the sport calculus in the equation, we probably would have left her in her private school. However, we wanted to give her the most opportunity to pursue what she felt was a sport she loved. No illusions of professional status were entertained, but she did strive to play for a good D1 school. Without the freedom from the requirements of traditional school, we would never have been able to train as much, or travel to events.

    She is happy, well-adjusted, highly social, and plays for a good D1 school. I got to spend thousands of hours with my child during travel, and at tournaments, and have a bond that may not have been as strong without our shared sport. To top it off – straight “A”‘s, no booze, no boys, no drugs. Regardless of the monetary cost to get here, I think I hit the lottery.

    All that being said; it’s not for everyone. Some kids need the structure of a brick-and-mortar school to keep them focused. But to discount it out-of-hand is illogical.

  5. “Imparting to our progeny?” Wow!! Just wow! There is still not parity? Maybe grammar would’ve been something you should impart to yourself before opening a dictionary?Misnomer? I feel so sorry for you child, sorry, “progeny!”

  6. Em – Sorry you find my writing offensive. I enjoy stretching my vocabulary and freely admit to using language that I like, rather than what would make for “easy” reading. I know that it’s recommended to write as if speaking to an 8th grader so as not alienate readers, but I don’t enjoy doing so.

    However, I’m not sure where I went wrong. Please educate me in the proper use of the english language. How did I misuse the terms? How should they have been phrased? I am happy to acknowledge errors, and appreciate it when advised of grammatical mistakes, so they will not reoccur.

    As to my children; we’re doing fine, thank you. And I’ll warrant that their command of the english language will provide them more opportunities in the workplace, than many of their contemporaries.

    Lastly; you could always just not read any of my postings. I am always amazed that people feel it necessary to attack, insult, and insinuate familial discord, when they could simply shrug and move on.

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