Last week, I tried playing a game of tennis in sunglasses.
With winter approaching here in the UK, the sun is a lot lower in the sky and it can cause some nasty glare off the court.
It was my turn to serve and I was playing into the sun. So I put on some sunglasses and proceeded to serve as normal.
However, it was a complete disaster.
I double faulted twice, missed every first serve and my timing was way off during my groundstrokes.
So I don’t think wearing sunglasses is for me 🙂
But when I watch live games on TV, I’ve occasionally seen players wearing sunglasses..
..but it’s very rare.
Why is this the case? If it can help you play in the sun during a game, surely more players should wear them?
I’ve seen players like Andy Murray really struggle when he’s serving and the sun’s in his eyes.
In this blog post, I’ll look at why the majority of players don’t wear sunglasses during their matches.
Is it illegal to wear sunglasses when playing tennis?
This was my first thought when I started researching this topic.
Maybe there is some rule against wearing sunglasses, and you need a medical reason to use them.
Actually, there is no rule at all.
Most players are brought up not using them and they just learn to adapt to playing in the sun. Many coaches believe it’s an unnecessary distraction, and players should just deal with it.
Furthermore, as I found out, there are a few reasons NOT to wear sunglasses when you’re playing tennis.
Reasons against wearing sunglasses
We’re always told in the media and from experts that we shouldn’t expose our eyes and skin to the sun for long periods, but here are 4 reasons why most tennis players choose not to wear sunglasses when they’re playing.
Obstructing your view
Tennis is a fast paced sport. The ball is constantly changing direction, so for a player it’s essential that they can see every part of the court at all times. Wearing sunglasses can hinder your vision slightly, and at the pro level this can make a big difference. If you’re a male tennis player, you might be facing serves in excess of 130mph, so you need to make sure you’re in the best shape you can be when you’re on court.
Changing light conditions
Following on from the previous point, tennis matches can be long and arduous for the players, and the light conditions can change during a game. Clouds can come and go which can affect how much light is on court. While the human eye can quickly adapt to this, it’s a lot trickier with sunglasses.
Furthermore, players will sweat during a match which can cause the sunglasses to steam up in certain conditions, which will definitely affect their vision.
Even with sunglasses which fit comfortably, they can fall off or slide down during a tennis match. If you’re changing direction quickly, or sweating a lot, it can make your sunglasses feel a lot more uncomfortable.
It can potentially cost you a point, which could be at any crucial moment in the match, e.g. playing for the set, or at break point on your serve.
As I mentioned earlier, most coaches try to encourage young tennis players to play without sunglasses. They believe their future tennis stars will be able to cope with different conditions as they get older and still perform to a high level.
However, there’s also a safety aspect to consider, particularly at the junior level. If you get hit in the face with a tennis ball whilst wearing sunglasses it could lead to a nasty eye injury. Although you can wear safety glasses, which are shatter proof, most coaches believe it’s simple better to not wear anything.
How do tennis players play without sunglasses?
Despite the issues of playing into the sun, most pro players just adapt and it doesn’t really affect their game at all.
They’ve had so much coaching in their junior years that they know how to play in different conditions.
When serving, they can slightly adjust their ball toss so they don’t have to look directly in the sun.
In this forum post, it’s interesting to read that one coach insisted that if you’ve practiced your serve enough, you can hit the ball with your eyes closed! When challenged, he did it 5 times in a row right into the service box.
I’d love to see that!
Which tennis players wear sunglasses?
As of 2019, in the women’s game, Sam Stosur wears sunglasses from the Oakley range. It clearly works for her, as she is grand slam winner.
In the men’s game, the Serbian tennis player Victor Troicki also wears sunglasses. And as you can see here, he’s also happy to help at his fellow professionals if they’re struggling to play in the sun 🙂
There are also a couple of players who wear glasses for other reasons. Hyeon Chung wears glasses because he has astigmatism, which is where the eye struggles on focusing light. It means he suffers with blurred vision. His glasses clearly help though as he is great at returning and keeping the ball in play.
The recently retired Janko Tipsarevic also wears prescription glasses to help him with his sight.
Which tennis players wear contact lenses?
It’s hard to say for sure. Novak Djokovic has admitted he wears daily disposable lenses and Federer apparently has tried Nike’s MaxSight lenses.
Are polarized sunglasses good for tennis?
It depends. Although they can help reduce glare, it can negatively affect depth perception and tracking the movement of the ball, which are extremely important components of the tennis game.
So if you play in sunny conditions a lot, they might be worth considering, but not at low light levels
What is the best lens colour for tennis sunglasses?
According to Hix magazine, polarized sunglasses which are optimised for the yellow spectrum are best, as this will help you pick out the tennis ball better when it’s very bright.
Are tennis sunglasses worth it?
It’s up to you.
For me, I just prefer wearing a cap and finding a way to deal with the sun when it happens.
It’s worse in the winter months, particularly with the glare from the tennis court, but in the summer with the longer days, you have more flexibility when you can play, so you can avoid times when the sun can cause any issues.
But if you really struggle playing when it’s too bright, consider some sunglasses as this might help you see the ball a lot better.
Just make sure you choose a pair which can block some of the harmful rays from the sun such as UVA, UVB and UVC.