Why Do Tennis Players Blow On Their Fingers? (And Why You Should Too)

By Patrick

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It’s a common sight in professional tennis matches – players blowing air on their fingers during changeovers or between points. Top stars like Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, and Novak Djokovic can all be seen using this unusual technique frequently.

But why do the best tennis players in the world feel the need to blow on their hands? What purpose does this peculiar ritual serve?

As it turns out, there are a few key reasons why tennis players rely on blowing on their fingers to improve performance and prevent injury. In this in-depth guide, we’ll examine the science and reasoning behind this odd-looking habit to understand why it’s so prevalent in tennis.

The Need for Grip

First and foremost, blowing on the fingers and hands helps tennis players improve their grip on the racket.

Maintaining a firm and stable grip is critical in tennis. Even minute changes in grip pressure and finger positions can drastically alter racquet control and shot precision. A loose grip when hitting a groundstroke or serve can lead to mishits and uncontrolled power.

But securing a solid grip becomes more difficult as hands sweat and get clammy, especially in hot and humid conditions. As moisture accumulates, the racket handle starts to slip and slide in the player’s hands.

By blowing cool air directly onto the fingers, palms, and racket handle, the evaporation effect helps dry excess sweat to improve traction and stickiness. Players can then grip the racket with increased security and accuracy.

Cooling the hands can improve grip strength and dexterity – two extremely important factors for handling a racket optimally.

Coping With Heat

This leads into another reason behind the blowing technique – combating high temperatures.

Tennis is often played in extremely hot and humid climates. The blistering sun beats down on the court, and scorching on-court temperatures easily exceed 100°F.

Intense matches in this sweltering environment cause core body and hand temperature to rise quickly. Increased sweat production can not only compromise grip, but also lead to dehydration and heat-related illness if left unchecked.

Blowing air on the fingers cools the blood in the hands and wrists to counteract this thermal rise. Think of it like a mini air conditioner rejuvenating the star player between points!

These hand cooling techniques help lower body temperature and heart rate to optimize physical performance in the heat. In addition, the sensation of coolness on the hands simply provides relief and comfort amidst the extreme conditions.

So in addition to enhancing grip, this method assists tennis players in regulating temperature to avoid performance declines and dangerous overheating.

Relieving Pain

A third reason tennis players frequently blow on their fingers is to relieve pain from common injuries.

The speed and forces involved in modern tennis place huge demands on the hands and fingers. Constantly gripping, swinging, and absorbing ball impact can lead to a myriad of finger, hand, and wrist injuries.

Two common ailments are racket blisters on the fingers and hand joint inflammation from overuse. The friction and pressure involved in gripping a racket for hours leads to sensitive blistering on the fingers. At the same time, repetitive motions like serves and topspin strokes can cause inflammation in joints and tendons.

Blowing cool air onto sore fingers helps reduce inflammation and numb the pain receptors, providing temporary respite. The light breeze adds a soothing feeling, much like blowing on a scraped knee or elbow to lessen the discomfort.

While not a solution in itself, this simple act gives instant pain relief so players can carry on competing at the highest level.

The Psychology of Ritual

Beyond the physical benefits, there is also a mental aspect to the finger blowing ritual. Like Nadal’s precise drink bottles or Djokovic’s ball bouncing, these pre-point rituals help players dial in focus and manage nerves.

Blowing on the fingers acts as a mental cue to isolate concentration before each point begins. It provides a consistent sequence that gets the player into match mode.

Much like a free-throw shooter’s routine at the line, or a batter adjusting gloves in the box, it’s a psychological trigger to build confidence and rhythm.

By incorporating this quirky habit into matches, tennis stars can fine-tune their mental approach and cope with pressure. The more ingrained the ritual, the deeper the impact.

Technique and Execution

Now that we understand the reasoning behind this peculiar practice, let’s examine proper technique and execution:

  • Blowing should be done gently using pursed lips to control air flow and direction.
  • Angle air directly onto fingers for maximum cooling and drying effect. Target the pads of the fingers that grip the racket handle.
  • Get full hand coverage by blowing across the palm and between each finger crevice.
  • Use smooth breaths to avoid hyperventilating or lightheadedness. Steady exhales diffuse heat without overcooling.
  • Time breathing between points or on changeovers so as not to disrupt rhythm and focus during actual play.
  • Wetting fingers beforehand can bolster the cooling effect as the moisture evaporates.
  • Dislodge any clinging dust or clay that could reduce grip security.
  • Clench and release fingers to test grip pressure accuracy after blowing.

With the proper approach, players can maximize the benefits while integrating this ritual seamlessly into the match flow.

Alternative Hand Cooling Methods

Blowing isn’t the only way tennis stars can cool and soothe their hands:

  • Ice towels – Wrapping hands/fingers with a cold wet towel provides instant cooling relief. The ice literally numbs sore fingers.
  • Cold compresses – Physios often apply cold compresses or ice bags to ease inflammation in hands and joints.
  • Cooling sprays – Specialized aerosol sprays containing cooling agents like menthol provide an icy blast effect when applied to hands.
  • Plunging into ice buckets – Dunking hands into ice buckets is seen commonly. The intense cold reduces swelling and numb pain.
  • Fanning – Players’ boxes will fan athletes with towels or handhelds when blowing isn’t practical. Creates a light cooling breeze.

So while blowing air remains the most frequent method, players have alternatives to achieve hand cooling, pain relief, and grip security as needed.

Examples In Action

To see these hand blowing techniques in action, observe the best tennis players closely during match play:

  • Rafael Nadal blows with focused pursing for several seconds in between every point. He vigorously airs out each finger and his grip hand palm.
  • Serena Williams mouths a wide blowing motion on her fingers just before receiving serve, likely to dry grip.
  • Novak Djokovic closes his eyes and blows lengthy breaths onto his racket hand when switching sides on changeovers to combat heat fatigue.
  • Roger Federer discreetly provides a few short blows to his palm and racket handle in the hurried seconds before returning serve.
  • Naomi Osaka rapidly blows on her fingers and adjusts her strings when preparing to return difficult second serves.

As you can see, top professionals all incorporate some variation of blowing on their hands and fingers to hone advantages and cope with demands. They’ve learned this eccentric habit improves performance when applied diligently.


While it may seem odd to the casual observer, blowing on fingers and hands serves multiple functions for tennis players:

  • Enhancing grip security as sweat accumulates
  • Cooling hands and body to mitigate heat impact
  • Providing immediate pain relief for finger blisters and inflammation
  • Activating mental focus and routines before points

In addition, proper technique and well-timed execution allows players to maximize the benefits while integrating this ritual seamlessly into matches.

Understanding why this quirk occurs sheds light onto the extreme physiological and psychological challenges faced while competing at the elite level. Next time you see your favorite players blowing on their hands, remember there is logical methodology behind the madness!

So although it may look bizarre out of context, this unique tradition is ingrained deeply into the game for good reason.

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