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MATCH PLAY BY BRAD HARRIS

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Greetings Rollingwood members and friends!

Today we launch a monthly tennis column designed to help you achieve better results and have more fun on the court. My goal is to offer tips on stroke technique, strategy, mental toughness, and other aspects of the game in a format accessible to players of all levels.

I'll also use this space to announce upcoming socials, tournaments and other events and to keep you up to date on tennis news around the club. I'd love to hear your feedback on the column and hope you'll feel free to suggest topics you'd like me to cover in the future.

Given the recent onslaught of rain and chilly temperatures, I figured this month's subject was a no-brainer: cold-weather tennis. Here are a few thoughts to keep you competitive and injury-free this winter!

DRESS SMART: Layer up! Start with fitted, moisture-wicking clothing on the upper body and add several layers that will be easy to shed as play intensifies and your body warms. Leggings or sweatpants are great, but make sure they aren't baggy so you don't trip when sprinting for a short ball. A hat adds extra insulation and sunglasses are important as the sun dips lower in the winter sky.

WARM UP/ COOL DOWN: In cold weather, it's more important than ever to precede play with a light jog around the court followed by a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warm-up helps prevent injuries and gets your body ready to compete. Add five to ten minutes of rallying to your typical warm-up before beginning competitive play. Once you are done playing, proceed with static stretching to protect against muscle strains and to help recovery.

SHOT SELECTION: Because the ball won't bounce as high in cold weather, managing shot selection is more important than ever - and can give you a decisive edge over your opponent. One good choice? The drop shot. Even the fleetest foe will have a hard time getting to a well-timed dropper. Other good picks are slice serves and chips.

LOVE THY RACKET: Play for a few minutes on a nippy day and you'll find the ball feels like a rock and doesn't travel as far. Why? The cold robs strings of some of their elasticity. To counter these effects and reduce vibration, lower the tension on your stringbed or switch to natural gut or multifilament string. Also, protect against string breakage by always storing your racket in a warm environment.

HYDRATE: When it's hot, drinking water comes naturally. Don't skimp on hydration during cold weather. Your body needs it.

Have fun and see you on the courts!

Brad Harris is tennis director at Rollingwood Racquet Club. Reach him at 209-256-0652 or at brad@rollingwoodclub.com