Since I started watching tennis on TV, I always wondered why tennis players will hit their shoes with their tennis racquets during a match
A main reason tennis players hit their shoes with their racquet is to remove any clay or grass that has gotten stuck and accumulated in the grooves of their shoes – that way they maintain better friction and stability when playing and moving on the court.
So, it appears it is not just a superstition, even though for some players it could very well be a mixture between a developed habit, as well as a little ritual they do before every point. In overall, there seems to be more to it than what meets the eye.
These are 5 reasons why tennis players hit their shoes with their racquets.
1. Removing Foreign Materials From the Shoes
If you play on courts with different surfaces, you will most likely have noticed that this can and will affect your game, the pace, the way you move, the ball movement, and more.
After the racquet, the second most crucial accessory for any tennis player is their shoes. Without a good pair of shoes that provide proper shock absorption, decent comfort, and most importantly, excellent traction to the court’s surface, you are in for some tough games.
Depending on the type of surface you will be playing, there is a high chance that a lot of dirt, clay, or grass is going to get stuck on your shoes’ soles. As a result, this will lead to two things:
- The shoes will get heavier. Ask any runner, and they will tell you that heavy shoes are the last thing you want to have. The lighter they are – the better. Even light shoes can start to feel really heavy with time, and tennis matches are known to last a long time in some cases. By hitting their shoes, players will knock off the accumulated dirt in the treads of the shoes, thus keeping the shoes as light as possible.
- The shoes will start losing traction with the surface. Since tennis is a very dynamic sport which incorporates a lot of turns, changing directions in split seconds, many starts and stops, you need to have the best traction and grip. Otherwise, your gameplay will suffer, and you are risking sliding around, and even possibly falling down.
Since shoes are so important and are put under a lot of stress while playing tennis, players have to change them frequently too. Often, the toe area wears off first; in some cases, the heels can also wear off unevenly. Several tennis pros, even, change their shoes with a new pair every match or so
How surfaces affect the shoes and playing style.
When tennis, as we know it today, got invented in 1873, it was played mostly on grass surfaces. Later in 1940, the hardcourt (acrylic) surface was introduced, and in the 1950s the modern clay courts started to become popular.
- Grass courts – they are made of seeded turf which is placed on top of a soil base.
- Clay courts – they are made of finely crushed stones or bricks on top of which there is a very tiny gritty material.
- Hardcourts – they are made of a concrete or asphalt base and on top of it, usually, is placed a layer of rubber that improves the shock absorption from the movements of the tennis player. The top layer is made of a mixture of acrylic paint and sand.
The different surfaces will have different characteristics and will provide for different friction, shock absorption, ball behavior, and more.
This, also, will affect the players because the different surfaces will have different friction with the tennis shoes they are wearing. For example:
Thehardcourt surface provides for less friction with the ball, but there is better friction for the shoes. Therefore, there will be less accumulated dirt on the shoes’ soles.
- On clay courts, the court produces the best friction with the ball, but it has the smallest friction with players’ tennis shoes, as clay and dirt, usually, get stuck on the shoes.
We can see that tennis players tend to hit their shoes with their racquets a lot more often when playing on clay surfaces like in the French Open (Roland Garros) and Italian Open (Rome) to name a few.
2. Just a Habit
3. Taking Out Frustration
Tennis is a sport where players can get very angry; it is not something uncommon for a player to obliterate their tennis racquet as a way to vent their anger during a frustrating point or game.
A lot of tennis players have certain expectations when playing. In certain occasions, when they are making mistakes like hitting a ball into the net, doing a shank, or any other mistakes and unforced errors, they can get really frustrated and disappointed with themselves.
Sometimes players just need to vent out and express that frustration, so it doesn’t build up more. Frustration is another thing that could lead to tennis players hitting their shoes with their racquets – doing so, reduces the chances of breaking their racquet.
Besides smashing your racquet in a tournament game can lead to some substantial fines (for example, Serena Williams was fined $10,000 for throwing her racquet at Wimbledon).
4. Rituals (or Routines) to Focus
Rituals or routines can be very closely related to superstition. A lot of the top players have some unusual little habits and quirks. For instances…
RafaelNadal has a very long list when it comes to habits and superstitions. He walks on the court with only one racquet, crosses the line with his right foot, he uses two water bottles with their labels always facing the baseline he is playing at, always chooses between 3 balls and more.
- Serena Williams has her set of habits, too, like asking the people at the player box to sit in the same order all the time, and it has been rumored that she uses the same socks when she is on a winning streak.
- Andre Agassi used to play tennis without wearing underwear as he believed this helped him win more often.
- Roger Federer is believed to have an obsession with the number eight. He’s been seen taking eight rubs of towel, bringing eight bottles of water and eight racquets to the court.
So, there you have it! If before you couldn’t figure it out why tennis players will be hitting their shoes with their racquet, we hope this article gave you some light into it. Next time you’re watching tennis pros on TV, and you see them hitting their shoes, you might have a better idea of what is going on into their heads.
Personally, for me, hitting my shoes with my tennis racquet is an excellent way of releasing frustration when things don’t go my way, especially during critical points. What about you?… What’s your reason?