If you’re a fan of ATP or WTA tennis, you know that rain will usually delay or end a professional tennis match. This is usually decided by the tournament referee when he or she deems it too slippery or unsafe for the match to continue.
Sometimes the players will take it upon themselves to stop the match, but the referee has the final say. In club tennis, there is no referee and the players decide when to call it quits.
In theory, you could play tennis in a light rain, but definitely not in a strong rain. The determining factor is the intensity of the rain, the court surface, and how slippery or not the court is becoming.
Most club matches are played on either hard court or clay. There are two types of clay – green clay and red clay, but green is more popular.
Green clay is often referred to as “har-true” and red clay is a finer, softer type of clay that absorbs water slightly more. If enough rain comes down, it will affect any surface (hard court or clay) making it too slippery to risk playing.
Can You Play Tennis On A Wet Court?
Yes, you can play tennis on a wet court, but it depends how wet. On hard courts, you’ll have more traction than on clay, but the lines can be very slippery.
If playing on wet hard courts, you need to be careful around the lines. You should also not run 100% speed or try to move too quickly. Additionally, if puddles begin forming, you should stop playing, as the balls will soon become water-logged and lose most of their bounce.
Clay courts are better able to absorb water than hard courts. But once they get saturated, your level of traction will be much worse than a hard court.
Once clay is saturated with water, it becomes like mud and it’s nearly impossible to have traction. In periods of light rain, you can certainly play on clay. The deciding point to stop is when the clay turns to mud.
If the clay turns to mud in a light rain, stop playing, as you’re only risking falling or injuring yourself. Hang out by the court for a bit and monitor the weather.
How Long Does It Take For Tennis Courts To Dry After Rain?
If a light rain stops, it will usually require 15-25 minutes for clay courts to dry enough to be played on. This is only in light rain.
When the rain comes down heavy and the clay court is mudded up, it will take at least an hour or more to dry. I would say in most cases, heavy rain on average takes 2-3 hours to dry for clay courts during the day. At night, it could be longer due to the lack of sun.
On hard courts, the time for drying can take longer. If a light rain occurs and the court looks wet and the lines are slippery, I recommend stopping play. And if puddles occur, you certainly want to stop.
After a light rain on a hard court, it could take up to an hour for the court to dry. This really depends on the material used to build the court and the time of day.
I’ve seen some hard courts dry in 30 minutes while others took over an hour. Some courts are just better irrigated, while others seem to collect water in spots and puddle up.
If a hard rain hits for 10 minutes or more, you could be looking at several hours before the court dries.
To summarize, you can still play tennis on a wet court, but it depends on how much traction you have, how hard it’s raining, and what kind of surface you’re playing on (hard court or clay).
How Does Water Affect Tennis Balls?
All tennis balls absorb water on the furry or hairy part of them. This causes the ball to be water-logged and gain weight (usually a 1-3 ounces). Keep in mind the tennis ball itself is only 2 ounces.
When this happens, the ball definitely slows down, does not bounce as high and does not travel as fast or far. Furthermore, water will come off the ball every time it is hit – usually splashing you in the process.
It’s no fun playing tennis with water-logged balls. So even if you have good traction on a wet court, the tennis balls will absorb the moisture and they will severely affect your game.
This is a big reason why playing tennis in the rain can be difficult. The only solution is to wait until the courts dry or put new, dry tennis balls in play.
If the courts have a lot of moisture on them, then the new balls will quickly collect that and become water-logged again. That’s why I recommend not playing when the courts are wet.
Does Rain Ruin Tennis Balls?
No, rain will not ruin the tennis ball in that it can’t be used again. But it will make the tennis ball practically unplayable for the time it is wet.
If you open new balls and it rains soon after, the balls will likely get water-logged if you play for a bit. You’ll see the balls don’t bounce that well and they’ll feel heavier.
As we mentioned before, tennis balls absorb moisture, which is why they lose performance when wet. If this happens, just put the balls back in the can or your bag and dry them off when you get home.
When the tennis balls dry, they should be fine to use again for practice or a friendly match.
What Is The Best Way To Dry Off A Wet Court?
In regard to clay courts, the only thing you can do is wait. There is no tool or blower that will dry clay courts. The best course of action (to avoid them getting wet in the first place) is to place a tarp over them when it rains.
In this way, you can begin playing as soon as the rain stops, and the tarp is removed. Tarps are not commonly used in most tennis clubs.
But they can often be seen at such prestigious events as Wimbledon, where a crew of 20 balls boys can cover a court in less than a minute.
When it comes to hard courts, the best option to dry a wet court is with a squeegee. This is a tool that is specially designed to push water off the court. It also spreads it out so that the water can dry faster.
Most good hard courts have at least one squeegee nearby. The squeegee should be used when it stops raining. It will take some time to dry a wet court with a squeegee (depending on the level of wetness).
On hard courts with just a few small puddles, I’ve been able to dry the courts in 5-10 minutes with a squeegee. But on very wet courts, it can take 15-25 minutes to squeegee the entire court.
In addition, you may need to allow time for the court to dry, even though you moved most of the puddles off the court. For places that stubbornly won’t dry (or if you don’t have a squeegee), an old towel, shirt or rag works well.
While you won’t be able to dry an entire court with one towel, shirt or rag, you can hit a few bad spots and dry them faster than with a squeegee in most cases.
Can You Play Tennis On A Wet Court? What Is The Best Way To Play Tennis In The Rain?
As I mentioned earlier, yes, it’s possible to play tennis on a wet court. Here are some helpful pieces of advice for playing tennis in the rain:
- Make sure your sneakers have good traction. If you’re playing on clay, you should be using clay court tennis sneakers that have extra material on the bottom for grip.
- Wear a hat to protect your head or glasses from getting wet. If you wear glasses (like I do), it’s nearly impossible to play with water all over your lenses.
- Bring extra towels. You may need them to dry off your racket and body.
- Bring extra tennis balls. One can is not enough in wet weather. I recommend bringing at least two cans, if not three to play in the rain. When the first can becomes water-logged, let them dry off out of the rain. You can then put the second fresh can into play.
- Bring extra rackets or over-grips. In the rain, the handle of the racket can easily get wet. If this happens, it’s difficult to grip the racket. For this reason, it’s beneficial to bring extra over-grips and rackets.
- Bring extra shirts. Depending on the intensity of rain, your shirt may become water-logged too, making you feel heavy, wet and uncomfortable. I recommend bringing at least three shirts (if not more) for play in the rain.
When playing in the rain, it’s ultimately your judgment or call as to whether you can go on our not. There have been times I really wanted to play, but the courts just became too wet.
In cases like that, better to air on the side of caution. I’ve played complete matches in a light rain on clay. But hard courts are different. Once it gets to a certain point, they are pretty much unplayable.
I hope the information in this post helps you. The next time it rains while you play, you’ll know what to expect and how to handle it.
If you have any questions about playing tennis in the rain, please post them below in the comments section. Thanks for reading!
In Seattle, we play almost every day unless rain is falling. A lot of it is heavy mist. We have 5 rollers. Takes about 30 minutes to roll our court and the one next to it (when the angled balls roll there they’ll get wet). We play in cold weather ( 25 f or higher ). Wind up to 20mph. We use hand warmers. We play team tennis (3 vs 3 ). 4 at a time. After one game each team exits a player and the 2 on the bench come in. This rotation makes it so no one sits out more than one game.
Balls get heavy so you have to play a different game. Power doesn’t work. You need smoother strokes or you might hurt your arm.