Understanding How Weather Conditions Can Affect Your Tennis Picks

João Mourato

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 1:50 PM GMT

After analyzing the different court surfaces and how they affect the game conditions, we’ll focus now on the other factors that might influence the game speed.

On our previous article we focused on how the ball reacted once it made contact with the court surface. It was clear that the friction levels differ from surface to surface, leading to distinct game conditions. After determining the importance of surface friction, it’s equally important to analyze the factors that might affect the ball travel speed.

It’s quite logical and obvious that from the moment the ball leaves a player’s racket, it starts to fall and lose speed. Gravity is one of the reasons for this phenomenon, but the importance of air density must not be forgotten.

First of all, it is important to understand the concept of drag force, also known as air resistance, which is the force acting opposite to the relative motion of an object, on this case the tennis ball. Is equally important to refer that the drag force reduces when air density decreases.

With this on our mind we’ll focus our analysis on the several factors that might affect the game conditions:

Handicapping Different Court Surfaces

Altitude
Playing on altitude is very demanding for the human body and might take several weeks for an athlete to be fully adapted to the conditions (known as acclimatization). Adding to the physiological changes, players also have to adjust to totally different game conditions and that’s where we’ll focus our analysis.

Air density on altitude is lower than on sea level, resulting in a decrease of drag force, as we already saw. Therefore, the ball will travel on air at a higher speed due to the lower level of air resistance.

Here is a list of eight professional tournaments played on altitude:

Tournament

Altitude, m

Altitude, ft

Monterrey

540

1770

Madrid

655

2149

São Paulo

760

2493

Kitzbühel

762

2500

Bad Gastein

1002

3287

Gstaad

1050

3444

Bogotá

2640

8660

Quito

2850

9350

 

As we can see, Quito and Bogotá are, by far, the two events played at higher altitude. The game conditions on these events are extremely fast, which makes big servers even more dangerous.

Ivo Karlovic is an example of this situation, the 6’1’’ (211 cm) Croatian has a 10 – 2 career record on Bogotá with outstanding numbers on serve. Karlovic stats on Hard Court in last three years are remarkable, with 1.52 aces per game and with 93.6% service hold. However, if we look at Ivo’s numbers on Bogotá in last three years they are even more impressive: 1.77 aces per game and with 98.71% service hold.

 

Temperature
Temperature is another factor that influences the air density level, the air density reduces as the temperature increases. If we analyze a temperature change from 59ºF (15ºC) to 95ºF (35ºC), the air density reduces by 6.5%.

Higher temperature will increase the ball speed on air, but that’s not the main impact on game conditions. Tennis balls have a hollow rubber-like core filled with gas when the temperature increases, the gas molecules inside the tennis ball expand which will result in a higher bounce.

Heavy top spin players benefit more from higher temperature conditions, with their ball bouncing higher and also travelling at higher speed.

Rafael Nadal is known for his tremendous top spin forehand, the Spaniard averages 3200 rpm on that shot with his record at 5000 rpm. The higher temperature conditions suit his game style, making him even harder to defeat.

 

Humidity
Finally, we’ll analyze the effect of humidity on game conditions, but first let’s take a quick look on humidity effects on human body. An increase on humidity will result in more water in the air, which makes it harder for sweat to evaporate, resulting in an increase of body temperature.

Air density reduces when humidity increases because the water vapor is a relatively lighter gas when compared to Oxygen or Nitrogen, but the effect on ball travel speed on air is not significant to change the game conditions.

The biggest effect of humidity on game conditions is related to tennis balls. When playing in humidity, the ball absorbs a higher amount of water which can increase the mass of the ball resulting in a higher drag force. The top spin and slice shots are the most affected by humidity due to ball rotation while flat shots don’t experience many changes.

Once again, we’ll pick Nadal as our example. When Rafael is playing on humid conditions, his top spin shots land shorter when compared with a dry ball. These impacts on game conditions are more notorious on clay, where is possible to continue playing with light rain.

 

We can conclude that not only the court surface affects the game conditions, but is also important to take in consideration other variables. Before analyzing the betting odds for your betting picks, is always a good idea to confirm the weather conditions and if they might affect the players game style.