‘modern tennis…..requires more than just purpose and guile. It demands unfailing strength and flexibility to hit power shot after power shot from deeper behind the baseline than ever before, or on the run, and to be ready to cover acres of court, much of it side to side, but going backwards and forwards too……To win, a player has to put the work in beforehand. They cannot afford to fade in the late stages of a match, and that bank of energy can only be filled in the off-season, with relentless gym and track work.’
I’m not too sure you’d have many people disagreeing with much of the above quotation from the book. ‘It demands unfailing strength and flexibility’. It’s not just that those things are an advantage, the modern game demands it of each player if they want to reach their potential. So you’d better be working to achieve that in order to be competitive!
‘The bank of energy can only be filled in the off-season, with relentless gym and track work’. Now while I may disagree with some of the details of this statement, I understand and agree with the sentiment and how work done ‘off court’ will truly benefit the player ‘on court’. A few further points on that though:-
- The off season is indeed a time when a tennis athlete can really look to make some good strength and conditioning improvements. It is however important to do this strategically. The player needs to be totally rested, recovered and refreshed from the previous season prior to starting their pre-season training. If not, you’re asking for trouble.
It’s important that the work done in the off-season is progressed steadily. There can be a temptation to ‘go for it’ straight way but again, you’re asking for trouble if you do this.
I think I am right in saying that the Australian Open has recently had the highest amount of retirements due to injury compared to the other Grand Slams. This seems incongruous when you think that it is coming after a nice break and is early on in the calendar. However, again, this is a legacy of too much being done in the pre-season and not allowing enough de-loading to enable adaptations to take place prior to entering an intense competitive period. Effectively, many players are already cooked by the time they get to the Aussie Open!
- Work in the off-season doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘relentless’, as pointed out above. Challenging, yes. Smart, yes. Planned, yes…but not necessarily relentless! I appreciate the sentiment of what is being said however.
- While this ‘bank of energy’ can indeed be filled, or topped up in the off-season, in my opinion, this is not the only time this can be done. At certain times, tournaments can be ‘trained through’ in order to continue to develop physical attributes. Many players also find certain times in the year to take time away from tournaments to have Training Blocks where they make a concerted effort to top up their physical capabilities again. So yes, the off-season is important, and lays a solid foundation, but it is not the only time this can be done.
As I say, I still agree with essence of the quote and that the modern day player is an ‘Athlete who plays tennis’. The physical demands of the modern game are so high that you simply have to physically prepare for it in order to be competitive at whatever level you play at!
More great quotations from Break Point to come. If you haven’t read it, it’s well worth it.