How To Play Hardcourts (and not get injured)

Most of us in Florida play almost exclusively on soft courts, while our friends out West play mostly on hard courts.  So when the time for us to play on the hard stuff, we all too frequently get injured.  Veteran tournament player Winder Bill asks what can be done to help avoid injuries.

For the 70’s, unless something changes next year, the indoors is in mid-March in Houston and the hardcourt is in Orange, CA in June.  If I have recovered my game sufficiently (rotator surgery end of December), playing those two hard court events would be highly desirable except for the East Coast clay court players dread of hard courts.  Rather than come to Florida for the winter circuit, I should go to Palm Springs for their January tournaments.  Practicing on indoor hard courts here in Virginia Beach in February, early March would give me maximum chance to have a good indoor tournament in Houston UNLESS I got hurt.  We clay court players have almost a phobia about hard courts yet most of the tennis players west of the Mississippi play almost exclusively on hard courts without whining about it.  What are the secrets to playing senior tennis regularly on hard courts and staying healthy (fictional topic?).”

Winder Bill

Winder, I can think of three suggestions (for when I go to Newk’s hard court camp every October).

  • Shoes – Roy Emerson said that, when they moved from grass/clay to the hard courts, they all used their oldest – most worn down – shoes.  So, the advice would be to use the smoothest bottomed shoes you have.
  • Socks – I normally wear two pairs of socks, regardless of the surface; but it is especially helpful to add cushioning going onto the hard courts.  I do not know or have any experience with jell inserts.
  • Meds – I have weaned myself off of taking Aleve/Ibuprofen on a regular basis; but do take it as a preventative when playing the hard courts.

Other suggestions?

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8 thoughts on “How To Play Hardcourts (and not get injured)

  1. Another idea with the shoes is to make sure they are designed for hard courts , the newer with lots of cushion works for me along with inserts. Check the pattern on the bottom to alleviate sudden stops which can agrévate your body. Another thing I noticed is not all hard courts are the same. The top coat finish can make a big difference . Also being realistic and limit the number of events you play . Hopes this helps

    Thanks, george

  2. Man up, dirtballers! The key to injury avoidance has always been stretching and core strength. Hard court players know that twisting and adjusting to crazy bounces, and balls hitting nails or tape edges on clay puts more strain on the body. Dynamic range of motion exercises and tennis-specific stretching/weight training will let you avoid all but most freakish injuries on any surface

    Lenny, so you say! Thanks. George

  3. Wearing old shoes is definitely not a good idea as the support is especially needed for hard courts. Do you think smooth soled shoes give more or less traction on a hardcourt? Do you want more or less traction on a hardcourt as we get older? Two pairs of socks can work, but only if you have plenty of room in your shoes so that you don’t jam any toes.

    Fred, according to Emmo, the smoother soles wouldn’t torque the knees as much. Thanks. George

  4. Some more suggestions:

    Get some nice cushiony replacement insoles for your tennis shoes. New Balance, in particular, makes some excellent insoles. They are not limited to New Balance sneakers.

    Do strengthening exercises to firm up the quads. Stronger quads give you much more stability in the knees and hips, reducing the chance of injury in those critical joints. Also, stronger quads better enable you to stop, twist and turn on a hard court, thereby improving your game in addition to injury avoidance.

    Learn to serve and volley and chip and charge on returns. Getting to the net more often and more quickly makes hard court points shorter and reduces the time to be spent on those courts.

    Reduce the tendency to want to drop shot on hard courts. Yes, this can still be a useful tactic but not as frequently as on soft courts. The ball sits up more on a hard court and a faster opponent will be able to get a hard court drop shot more frequently than on a clay court. Instead, the word of the day on hard courts should be depth. Hitting deeper on all shots pushes back opponents, makes them make more errors, shortens rallies and points, and gets you off the court faster.

    Make a point of trying always to stay on your toes. Not only does this make your foot work much better overall, but you will not be stomping the ground with your heels, thereby reducing the tendency to injure the Achilles tendon and to bring on plantar fasciitis.

    Marty, good stuff! Thanks. George

  5. I used to have knee problems (playing mostly hard courts) and then did this: I wear Nike Air Monarchs because of the air cushioning sole, slightly larger so I can put in my own orthotic and then an additional insole. Knee problems have disappeared. Oh, and I wear the thicker Thorlo socks.

    Mike, thanks! George

  6. As someone who grew up on hard courts (playing basketball, then tennis starting in my mid-40s), I would put good shoes at the top of the list. Unfortunately many shoe companies have decided to save on costs by using really crappy insoles even in expensive shoes. When I buy new tennis shoes, the first thing I do is to take the “stock” insoles out and replace them with insoles with more cushioning, especially in the heels. Spenco polysorb cross-trainers are my current favorite, but there are a variety of manufacturers and models to choose from. The main things cushioned insoles seem to help are the heels and the knees. Another suggestion is to keep your body weight down. The extra pounds can really pound your body down. Finally, I have finally learned to sometimes just say “too good” instead of thinking I’m still in my 20s and can run down balls I no longer can in my 60s.

    Joe, all great advice! Thanks. George

  7. As for the shoes I agree avoiding torque key but using old beat up and worn out ones not a good idea.
    Many of the hard court specific shoes have specific patterns and “pivot” spots to help that exact issue……….check out the bottoms of many hard court shoes and you will see those circles right under the ball of the foot and “slick” spots at strategic parts of the sole.
    Also pick a shoe with lots of cushioning…………like the adidas models with “bounce” tech in the soles (some of the barricades and even a version of the old Stan Smith and Rod Laver models are now being sold by with the bounce midsole). Stuff is amazing – but others like Asics and Yonex and Diadora have some great hard court models with extra cushioning.

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