How to Play (and Win) with the Wind

Playing outside can be tricky due to multiple weather factors, particularly wind conditions which can significantly impact your shots. Pay attention to your surroundings. Look for a windsock, flag, trees, or any other object that can give you an indication of which way the wind is blowing.

These are the five common wind patterns:

  • Wind is coming from behind you (tailwind)
  • Wind is blowing towards or against you (headwind)
  • Wind is blowing from left to right
  • Wind is blowing from right to left
  • Wind gusts are blowing in various directions (swirling wind)

When the wind is blowing consistently in one direction, recognize which direction the wind is traveling and adjust your play accordingly. Avoid aiming too close to the outside lines when playing on windy days and give yourself more margin for error. The safest play is to aim for the middle. If you are aiming for a specific target, remember to compensate for the additional distance the ball might travel based on the current wind conditions.

Tailwind considerations:

  • When the wind is behind you, the ball will travel faster and farther. Instead of trying to serve gently or altering your serve in other ways, which could create inconsistent results, still hit your normal serve but stand further from the baseline. Start about two or three feet further than you normally stand and see if this achieves the desired results. You may have to adjust where you stand based on the strength of the wind.
  • Your lobs and drives are more likely to go out, and dinks and drops might be more easily attacked. Pay attention to the strength of the wind and adjust shots accordingly.
  • When you are receiving shots with the wind behind, be prepared for shots that drop short. Depending on the stength of the wind, you might have to stand closer to the baseline (or even at or just inside the baseline) when you are returning the serve.

Headwind considerations:

  • The best practice when serving against the wind is to serve low and hard. High, floating serves will tend to land short and allow the opponent to rush to the net, making for a more challenging third shot.
  • When you are facing the wind, hitting drop shots become more challenging because they might end up short of the net. Consider driving your third shot.
  • Your lobs and drop shots could fall short which could give your opponents attacking opportunities.
  • When you drive the ball, there is less risk of your shot going out.
  • Similarly, pay attention to your opponents shots because, if they hit a drive that is hard and flat, you might be able to dodge and simply let the the ball fly out.
  • If your opponent hits a lob aimed at the baseline, rather ran hitting an awkward overhead, consider running back to the baseline and letting the ball bounce before hitting it because there is a chance their shot could land out.

Here’s a helpful video by the Pickleball Channel featuring pickleball greats Alex Hamner and Jennifer Lucore.

Pickleball 411 with Alex Hamner and Jennifer Lucore

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