If you think good nutrition doesn’t play a major factor in success on the tennis court, think again!
I have spent this weekend at the Australian Open Wildcard Playoff tournament where 8 American men and 8 American women competed for a spot in the main draw of next month’s Australian Open. In the first round of the tourney, after winning the first set then losing the second in a heart-breaking tie-breaker, Jack Sock found himself up a break in the 3rd set against long-time rival Dennis Kudla. Instead of closing out the match, earning himself a spot in the semifinals the next day, Jack had to retire because of cramping.
Cramping? Indoors? In December?
First of all, Jack Sock is 19 years old and looks to be in great physical condition. He’s a big boy – 6’1″ and 180 lbs according to the ATP website – and hits a big ball and moves well around the court. Cramping? Really?
I later found out from the medical trainer working the tournament that the reason for Jack’s cramping was not due to heat (duh since we were indoors) but rather due to dehydration. You would think that players (and those who work with them) at this level would know and understand the need to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after their matches, right? Well, apparently, that’s not always the case.
Jack had flown into Atlanta on Wednesday – a dehydrating experience as anyone who has flown on a commercial plane knows. On top of that, he was taking cold medication, which can also cause dehydration. If you read the package of any over-the-counter decongestant or antihistamine, you will see that you are directed to drink plenty of fluids when taking this type of drug.
Jack’s retirement due to cramping was totally preventable. He lost an incredible opportunity to win this tournament and have a chance to play in the main draw of another Major event (remember, he played in the main draw of the US Open this year as the winner of the Boys 18 Nationals and won the 2011 US Open Mixed Doubles title with Melanie Oudin). In 2010, Jack lost the Aussie Open playoff final to Ryan Harrison, so this was a chance for redemption.
It was sad to see one of our young American hopefuls squander this great chance to try his hand on a major stage. We need to make sure our players know and understand the need to fuel their bodies – their MACHINES – properly in order to maximize their potential. There are tons of nutrition experts out there. There are numerous nutrition websites and articles out there. There is NO EXCUSE for not educating yourself and your child about what, how much, and when to eat and drink, especially before a major tournament or competition.