A walk across the bridge connecting the Ringe Squash Courts with Levy Pavilion usually yields an expansive view of Penn’s many outdoor tennis courts, complemented by the sound of rackets hitting
balls with a resounding whack.
The exception, of course, is if it’s cold or rainy, when the players move inside.
But whether there’s a difference between indoor or outdoor tennis depends on who you ask.
“I like playing outdoors more,” Penn men’s junior co-captain Nikola Kocovic said. “It’s a little slower, [and] gives you more time. I have a pretty big swing, so it makes it easier for me … It’s slightly different, but not really drastic.”
Some, like freshman Blaine Willenborg, don’t have a preference. “Tennis is tennis,” he said with a laugh.
Penn men’s tennis coach David Geatz, on the other hand, took a strategic approach to the question. Geatz points to the swifter speed of indoor tennis, a consequence of the sun and wind one faces outdoors. Naturally, the former gets in players’ eyes and the latter interferes with ball trajectory.
“Everybody hits the ball about 25 percent bigger indoors. It sounds bigger, [and] it’s a cleaner game, where outdoors you can win by hacking a little bit more,” he said.
It’s this ability to hack in outdoor tennis that slows the pace of the game.
“If you play someone really good indoors, you’ve got to go for shots, [and] you’ve got to try to hit shots, where outdoors I think you can still be patient and play a more steady game and be successful,” Geatz said. “So the indoor game is quicker and it’s bigger and it’s more first-strike tennis.”
Like Kocovic, Geatz also prefers to play outdoors, but for a different reason.
“I think I prefer outdoors because we’re the furthermost southern school in the Ivy League and we’re probably practicing outdoors on days we shouldn’t [be] because it’s cold,” he said. “Out of any school in the Ivy League, we probably play more outdoor tennis than anybody. So I think it’s our advantage to play outside.”
Besides, Geatz knows how to deal with the sun, telling his players to watch their shadows.
“If you can hit the ball and it follows your shadow, then the ball is going to be right in the other guy’s eyes,” Geatz said.
Though Kocovic doesn’t find a large difference between indoor and outdoor tennis, he also takes weather conditions into account, especially the severity and direction of the wind.
Still, experience is time and again the best defense against bad weather.
“If you play the whole season indoors, your first couple matches outdoors are really, really tough,” Geatz said. “But once you’ve played a couple matches under your belt outdoors, it’s much easier to make the transition from indoors to outdoors.”
“I never really played indoors besides coming to [Penn],” Willenborg said, who hails from sunny Miami Shores, Fla. “At first, it was an adjustment … There’s a learning curve, [but] then once you get over that, it’s all the same.”
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