Fitness During Tournaments for Tennis Players Trying to be Elite

Courtesy of Todd Widom
Courtesy of Todd Widom

Here is another helpful article from coach Todd Widom on one way elite players set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.

This past December I had a discussion with a young touring professional  who was having trouble sustaining his level of fitness during matches on the ATP tour.  He had some very good chances to win matches against good players, but he would run out of gas and not be able to sustain his level of play.  After telling me his physical issues during his matches, he asked me if he should be doing fitness during tournaments.  My quick response was of course.

The vast majority of your children are not going to do what this article is discussing.  To be elite in this sport, you have to be different than the rest, and it is the small things that make the biggest difference if you want to be special.  If you do not go above and beyond the call of duty, you will be like the rest.  It all depends what your child wants out of their tennis.

Included in this article is information on fitness for those who are trying to become elite junior tennis players.  The norm for a junior tennis player is to warm up for their match, play their match, maybe stretch 5 to10 minutes, get food, maybe play another match or go to the movies, or hang out with their tennis friends for the rest of the day.  If the junior tennis player trains well for a tournament, they should be physically fit entering each and every tournament.  The reality is that if this player does not keep up their level of fitness during tournaments, they will be out of shape when they come back to train once their tournament is complete.  For every day they skip doing some physical fitness during a tournament, they will lose a bit of their physical conditioning, which will have to be boosted up again when they come home to train.

Doing fitness during a tournament will help maintain one’s fitness level and it is not about becoming more fit or stronger.  You want to try your best to maintain your level of fitness so that when you get home to train, you are not starting from scratch, and you can keep progressing to becoming more fit and stronger.  From a parental perspective I know what you are thinking:  I do not want my child to be tired for their next match the next day, I want them fresh.  If your child has been training well and is fit, doing 30 minutes of exercises is going to keep them sharp, because they should be used to doing lots of tough physical work at home.  If your child has two tough matches in a day at a tournament, then doing anything strenuous is not too smart, but if your child has some easy matches or one easy match, I would highly recommend them doing some very sport specific exercises to keep them sharp at tournaments.

This comes down to common sense.  For example, if your child has an easy match or two in one day, they definitely should proceed to do fitness for at least 20 to30 minutes.  They should do tennis specific movements to keep their fast twitch muscles firing for the matches the next day.  They could also do some body weight exercises, core or band work for some upper body strength.  If your child had a brutal day at a tournament and is tired, they should have a very good cool down session and recover well for the next match.  This may consist of a light jog or bike ride to flush out all the lactic acid that developed in their muscles.  Then you need a great recovery plan to make sure your child wakes up the next day with a fresh body so that they are able to compete again.  I will discuss the recovery plan in a future article.

As I discussed earlier in the article, most kids are not going to do this without someone helping them, and if they do this on their own, you have a very special mature young person on your hands.  Tennis is becoming a more physical game and the ball is going faster generation after generation.  I can tell you that many injuries come from improper training.  Also, tennis players who have become out of shape and then trying to push their bodies to higher levels of fitness or tennis when their bodies cannot handle that type of training at that moment, is a recipe for injuries.  When a player is at a tournament, it is all about trying to maintain your level of fitness so that when you come home to train, you are not out of shape and having to start from zero.  I always tell the players I train on a daily basis, that if you think your matches at tennis tournaments are very tough physically, then you are not fit enough.  Your training should always be tougher physically than your tournament matches, and if this is not the case, then you need to train tougher physically.  Best of luck and remember that going to tournaments are fun, but you also need to keep up with your fitness if you want to keep progressing physically.

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