Why Don’t (Most) Tennis Players Wear Sunglasses?

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Have you ever attempted to play tennis or other outdoor sports on an extremely sunny day? Not only is it distracting but you will probably be squinting the whole time. Tennis players, however, seem to be getting on just fine on the court without sunglasses. The question begs then as to why most of the tennis pros choose not to use sunglasses.

Why don’t tennis player wear sunglasses? Most tennis players do not wear sunglasses when playing because their eyesight isn’t as sharp as it is when they are playing without them, especially when considering different court and weather conditions. Any visual and depth perception alteration can be detrimental to a player’s performance on the court.

Sunny conditions

The usual precautions that tennis players take when playing tennis are caps, sunscreen, fluids, and extra clothing. The time the players spend outside on the court in sunny conditions is enough to make them susceptible to eye conditions. A good number of ex-pro players struggle from pterygium which is a benign growth located in the eye and which comes about from excessive ultraviolet-light exposure. This condition triggers vision problems. Depending on the city where they are playing, tennis players can find themselves in scorching conditions.

Australian Open

Take the Australian Open, for example, where temperatures can go up above 40.C. On different occasions, players have complained about the hot conditions and extreme temperatures during the tournament, citing health concerns.

Consequences of playing on sweltering conditions

Back in 2014, temperatures ranged between 41.5 and 43.9 C causing heat-related illnesses among players, ballboys, and attendants. Several players collapsed, including Ivan Dodig and Frank Dancevic. Nine players had retired by the second day while 970 fans had been treated for heat exhaustion by the third day.

However, the referee did not see the need to invoke the heat policy saying that earlier preparation and training would have helped players efficiently play in the conditions. Roger Federer and Gilles Simon agreed with the referee’s decision. The tournament’s heat policy was criticized after the games, and the prevailing opinion was that the policy should have been invoked. The policy requires that protection measures be applied including postponing games if need be.

Reasons Against Sunglasses

Despite the eye and vision health consequence of being outdoors for prolonged periods, most tennis players choose not to wear sunglasses.

These are more detailed reasons why most players don’t wear sunglasses on the court, even when it’s when quite sunny.

Precise vision

Tennis games are quite dynamic, and the ball is continuously shifting direction in the court. A tennis player needs always to have their eyes on the ball to avoid making mistakes when hitting the ball. Professional tennis requires precise scrutiny with the ball moving over 100 miles per hour, especially during the serves. A lot is at stake, professionally and financially, every time a player goes to the court, and they, therefore, want to prevent making avoidable mistakes.

Avoiding any possible distraction

Tennis players move a lot when playing and some movements can be pretty sudden and aggressive. Sunglasses can fall off, slide down, or even pop up. For a game that relies on precision, any distraction can prove costly for a tennis player. Furthermore, sunglasses have edges which can let a flash of light in the eye from the side or the top should the head move suddenly and thus temporarily obscure sight. Glasses can additionally hamper on peripheral vision due to the frame blocking small areas of the space in view.

Changing vision

Another vital reason is a change in light conditions. If the sun is hidden by a cloud, for example, the glasses may become dark causing a player to try and adjust their vision. The human eye is designed with good capabilities of adapting to shifting light conditions. The sure bet is thus to trust human vision to take care of light adjustments. In the case tennis courts, the limited air movement will trigger humid conditions and sunglasses may mist up. The lenses could also get dirty when a player sweats.

Players grow up playing without sunglasses

Most coaches advise children playing tennis to forego sunglasses when training. While safety glasses are made from special materials to protect from crashes, sunglasses do not have this protective property. The coaches also want their players to be able to withstand different elements and still play well. Because many of the young tennis players grow up playing without them, they adjust appropriately even when playing professional games.

Tennis Pros Who Wear Sunglasses

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While most tennis players refrain from wearing sunglasses on the court, a few of them are known mostly for wearing sunglasses.

Sam Stosur, former doubles world No.1, is known for sporting Oakley sunglasses. One of her career highlights is her win at the 2011 US Open where she eclipsed Serena Williams. Stosur is also known for her fight with Lyme’s disease, from which she bounced back to the fourth position in WTA singles rankings. When asked about her glasses, Stosur says that she has been wearing them since she was around 13 or 14 and has thus made it a habit. She further adds that her eyes have grown sensitive from wearing them on the court such that sunny conditions compromise her natural vision.

Other Pros who are commonly seen wearing sunglasses on the court are Tommy Robredo and Janko Tipsarevic. They also opt for Oakley sunglasses. Past pros who have been known to wear sunglasses when playing include Arnaud Clement and Natasha Zvereva.

Tennis Sunglasses Purchasing Guide

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Pros generally avoid sunglasses to avoid distractions. When playing recreational tennis, however, you may want to use sunglasses for comfort purposes. Companies like Oakley design specially-formulated glasses to help you perform better.

Durability

One primary consideration when buying yourself a pair of tennis sunglasses is their durability. Plastic options will not serve you for a long time because they are highly-prone to breaking. The market has sunglasses made of polycarbonate lenses that bend slightly and can, therefore, survive any collisions or falls. You should also buy strong sunglasses to protect your eyes on the court.

Snug-fitting

A good pair of tennis sunglasses are snug instead of fitting tightly. Tightness would lead to headaches since they press on the temples. A loose pair, on the other hand, will move around your face or even fall off when you are playing. The glasses are further fitted with ear, nose, and temple grips which even grip better when wet so that they stay on and are perfect for sweaty days.

Frames

Wrap around frames is a popular feature with tennis sunglasses because they offer the largest field of vision in addition to providing more protection. Sunglasses that are vented will allow movement of air to keep your face cool and prevent fogging. A silicone grip on the temples and nose will be firm enough to not fall off during a game.

Lenses

When it comes to lenses, some sunglasses are configured to help a player view the ball better. Brown lenses will tone down the sunlight glare and add a contrast which will make the environment a little sharper. Amber-tinted lenses will make a tennis ball seem brighter which will help with visibility. Grey lenses are also a favorite for clear vision. For light control, polarized lenses reduce the glare in the court and improve definition.

A player’s eyes also need protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and some tennis sunglasses have this provision. The lenses should be preferably lightweight and should have a mirror finish to provide clarity.

No Rules Against the Use of Sunglasses on the Pro Tour

Since most tennis pros do not wear sunglasses during games, some people assume that using sunglasses might not be allowed in some professional tournaments. However, there are no rules in the ATP or WTA against the use of sunglasses. Most coaches, however, prefer that their players get used to the sunny conditions so that they adapt to playing in different settings.

Prescription Glasses on the Pro Tour

The potential for distractions discourages many players, especially the pros, from wearing sunglasses. Nevertheless, some players need prescription glasses for specific eye problems.

The South Korean player Hyeon Chung, for example, struggles with astigmatism, which causes blurred and distorted vision. In an interesting twist of fate, this condition is what propelled his entry into the sport. When the situation was diagnosed, a young Chung was advised to focus on anything green to assist with his eyesight. The tennis court provided a better alternative to taekwondo which he was playing at the time.

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Should I Bother with Sunglasses to Play Tennis?

You can gain several benefits from playing tennis with sunglasses. The reduction of glare could help a player see the opponent and the ball much better.

The glasses offer much-needed protection from harmful rays like UVA, UVB, and UVC. UV radiation can become detrimental to the human eye and their overall health by causing conditions like cataracts and skin cancer. A painful condition caused by the extreme sun is a sunburn of the cornea called photokeratitis. Hats are only able to block 50% of the total radiation making sunglasses the safest option. To get the most out of tennis glasses, opt for specially made ones.

Some lenses, for example, repel water and can resist stains and smudges. Other companies sell a range of lenses which can be interchanged according to weather conditions. The market has numerous choices for tennis player from notable companies such as Oakley, Under Armour, Maui Jim, NIKE, and Tifosi Tyrant.

If you are considering going pro, however, you may opt to play without glasses for future purposes. Light conditions vary from court to court depending on the cities and even the countries where matches are organized. Training without sunglasses will make your vision more adaptable.