Getting hot under the collar, dealing with the heat in Australia. - UBITENNIS
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Getting hot under the collar, dealing with the heat in Australia.

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TENNIS HEAT IN AUSTRALIA – As the temperature rise Down Under Jonny Fraser (Owner of Science in Tennis, iTPA Master Tennis Performance Specialist, GPTCA Tennis Coach) and Mike James (LTA Performance Coach, GPTCA Tennis Coach) explain what the players do to cope with the heat.

 

AO2015: Interviews, Results, Order of Play, Draws

With the growth of tennis and emerging economies across the world tennis has become a global event. The calendars of both ATP and WTA involve a number of tournaments in every continent. Outdoor events are scheduled based on seasonal weather conditions with players competing in warm weather. The hot and humid conditions allow schedules to be free flowing, whilst providing a more enjoyable experience for spectators. Furthermore fewer rain delays allow continuous TV coverage increasing the attractiveness for sponsors and commercial revenue.

Competing in warm temperatures has its own challenges for players. More than often players will prepare through effective acclimatisation, rest and recovery methods and appropriate training on court. However, last year the extreme temperatures surpassing 40°C at the Australian Open 2014 on consecutive days was particularly hard for players. The soaring ‘inhumane heat’ as one player put it led to heat stroke, players fainting on court and even Ivan Dodig ‘fearing he may die’ on court. Ball boy and girls time on court was reduced, water bottles melted and shoes softened under the blistering heat. Bergeron (2014) explains that competing in challenging conditions leads to an increase in thermal strain on the body which may affect decision making, perceived effort on court alongside physiological strain on the body increasing fatigue. This combined with substantial sweat loss leading to reduced body water and electrolytes can lead to a drop in performance or illness. Due to criticism from players about a lack of communication organisers recognised that a clearer heat policy was required. One of these policy changes was to take into consideration measurements of temperature s that exceed 40°C and humidity readings that are greater than 32.5°C. However what effects does the extreme heat have on a tennis players body and are there any particular methods players can employ to reduce this?

Kovacs and Baker (2014) consider ways in which to aid and maintain tennis performance in the heat. Players are recommended to have individual hydration strategies maintaining appropriate consumption of fluids, particularly drinks containing sodium to replenish any electrolytes lost. Indeed further hydration recommendations include to make sure players begin fully hydrated at the start of matches, whilst rehydrating when playing multiple times for example between practice sessions and match play (Bergeron, 2014). Ellenbecker and Stroia (2014) emphasise how the WTA and ATP place great importance on adequate hydration. They explain how at events players fluid levels are monitored pre and post match and during training. This may involve weighing and monitoring urine colours of players. It appears that effective hydration strategies are essential to help reduce the risk of heat exposure illness.

Other strategies players can utilise to prepare themselves and maintain performance in the heat are through acclimatisation and the use of cooling methods. Bergeron (2014) discusses the importance of progressive acclimatisation both with regards to the environment and intensity of training or competition. Acclimatisation to the heat usually requires 7-10 days. Physiological adaptations include a lower heart rate at a given temperature and intensity, earlier onset of sweating and enhanced maintenance of the bodies core temperature. Despite this it is highly unlikely players will have up to 10 days in one particular location prior to competing, making heat acclimatisation a challenge. However with many competitions played in warm weather this may not be as necessary as first considered.

Cooling methods are often employed by players. The use of shade is an obvious example. Also In hot humid temperatures we regularly see players with ice bags or towels around their necks particularly at the change of ends. Despite evidence being limited with greater research in tennis needed other studies tend to suggests improvements both physiologically and performance wise. Hunter, Hopkins and Casa (2006) demonstrated that cross country runners who wore an ice vest in the hour build up to their event had a considerably lower core temperature reducing thermal strain. Furthermore Webster et al. (2005) showed that individuals wearing an ice vest prior to undertaking a maximal aerobic test led not only to improved duration running but also reduced perception of thermal state. It can be speculated how cooling methods will benefit tennis players. These may include reduced fatigue, improved recovery between points, maintenance of speed and power on court whilst leading to more proficient decision making. However similar to acclimatisation the implementation of pre cooling methods may be a challenge to players with schedules of play and timing of matches continuously changing.

Begeron (2014) also considers to what extent players may look at modifying play to minimise thermal strain. This may be selecting a style of play which looks to end the point more quickly aiming to reduce time on court. Ultimately game styles can be adapted but not changed. Players such as Djokovic, Nadal, Williams and Sharapova are all court players. It is important that when moving behind the baseline players use height and width to create space. For any player competing in such hot and humid conditions such as the Australian Open game plans needs to be proactive rather than reactive. Federer for example during his first round win 6-4, 6-2, 75 against Lu was hitting and charging behind the return of serve when possible. He also used serve and volley at key times on both first and second serves whilst looking to strike very aggressively. This example has also been a development of Federer’s game over the last twelve months with coach Steffen Edberg but this has also been applied by several big names in the opening round.

Players that will be successful in reaching the later stage in 2015 will have had the least amount of match time on court with potentially friendlier weather conditions. Murray post first round victory alluded to the cooler temperatures of night matches stating ‘ when it’s cooler, you know, maybe doesn’t take as much away from you energy-wise’. Both tactics and science may well play a vital role in who takes the prestigious titles come the 31st of January and 1st of February.

References

Bergeron, M.F (2014). Hydration and thermal strain during tennis in the heat. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48, i12-i17.

Ellenbecker, T.S. and Stroia, K.A. (2014). Heat research guides current practices in tennis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48, i5-i6.

Hunter, I., Hopkins, J.T.and Casa, D.J. (2006). Warming up with an ice vest: core body temperature before and after cross country running. Journal of Athletic Training, 41(4), 371-374.

Kovacs, M.S. and Baker, L.B. (2014). Recovery interventions and strategies for improved tennis performance. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48, i18-i21.

Webster, J., et al. (2005). A light weight cooling vest enhances performance of athletes in the heat. Ergonomics, 48(7),821-837.

Jonny Fraser (Owner of Science in Tennis) has an MSc in Sport and Exercise Science and is a Master Tennis Performance Specialist with the International Tennis Performance Association (www.itpa-tennis.org).

Mike James (Owner Matchpoint Management) is a GPTCA Level B coach and Level 4 LTA Tennis coach. He coaches at the LTA centre at Loughborough University.

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Indian Wells Daily Preview: Championship Sunday

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Paula Badosa earlier this week at Indian Wells (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Sunday’s men’s and women’s singles championship matches feature a two-time champion and three first-time finalists at this level.  Victoria Azarenka won this event in 2012 and 2016, two of 10 WTA 1000 titles to her credit.  Paula Badosa, Cam Norrie, and Nikolaz Basilashvili are all vying for the biggest title of their careers, during what has become their best seasons to date.

 

Paula Badosa (21) vs. Victoria Azarenka (27)  – 1:00pm on Stadium 1

For Azarenka, this result is a bit of a surprise, despite all she’s achieved in the sport.  Her record of 28-8 is more than solid, but she’s dealt with multiple injuries throughout 2021, forcing her to withdraw during five different events.  This is her first final since nearly a full year ago in Ostrava. 

For Badosa, this result has been expected for some time.  She’s been most impressive this season, accumulating 40 match wins, and a record of 10-3 against the top 20.  Paula herself will debut inside the top 20 on Monday, and would be just a few points shy of the top 10 with a win on Sunday.

Azarenka will attempt to win her first final since April of 2016.  While she was the champion of last year’s Western & Southern Open, she received a walkover in the championship match from Naomi Osaka.  Vika is 0-3 in her last three finals, all on hard courts.  This is only the second WTA final for Badosa, who claimed the title in Belgrade this past May on clay.  Based on the way the Spaniard has been clubbing her groundstrokes, and her comfort level on these slow-playing courts, I’m going with Badosa to win the second title of her young career.

Cameron Norrie (21) vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili (29)  – Not Before 4:00pm on Stadium 1

Norrie has been one of the most surprising and remarkable stories of 2021.  Prior to this season, he had never been ranked inside the top 40.  But like Badosa, he will debut in the top 20 on Monday, thanks to a record of 46-20 on the year. 

Basilashvili has made news for other reasons, as he was arrested last year on domestic abuse allegations from his former wife.  On the tennis court, he’s been quite streaky this season.  Between January and March, he went on a five-match losing streak before winning the title in Doha, which includes victories over Roger Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut.  He was also the champion in Munich, and came through qualifying to reach the semis in Halle.

Basilashvili’s last loss before his successful run in Doha was at the hands of Norrie, who prevailed 6-0, 6-3 in Rotterdam.  Cam has dominated his last two matches this week in similar fashion, defeating Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov while dropping only eight games across four sets.  The Brit has now won his last six semifinals, but his record in finals in striking different.  He’s only 1-4 this year in championship matches, and lost to Casper Ruud two weeks in San Diego 6-0, 6-2.  Meanwhile, Nikoloz has taken his last five finals, dating back to July of 2018.  With the biggest title of their careers on the line, Basilashvili is the favorite to utilize his powerful groundstrokes to secure victory.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Indian Wells Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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Grigor Dimitrov after his quarterfinal win on Thursday (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Saturday’s men’s singles semifinals are quite surprising, featuring four players ranked outside the world’s top 25.  Cam Norrie and Grigor Dimitrov will square off in the first semi, in a rematch from earlier this season in Miami.  The second semifinal is also a rematch from March of this year, as Nikoloz Basilashvili and Taylor Fritz actually played in back-to-back weeks seven months ago, during the two weeks when this tournament normally takes place.

 

Also on Saturday, the men’s and women’s doubles championship matches will be contested.  The women’s final will start the day at 11:00am local time, while the men’s final will close out play after the singles semifinals are completed.

Cameron Norrie (21) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (23)  – Not Before 1:30pm on Stadium 1

What a breakout season this has become for Cam Norrie.  The Brit is now 45-20 this year, and has been victorious in his last five semifinals.  Since his run to the final of San Diego two weeks ago, Cam has defeated four top 20 players: Shapovalov, Rublev, Bautista Agut, and Schwartzman.  Dimitrov also gained crucial momentum in San Diego, advancing to the semis and narrowly going down in defeat to eventual champion Casper Ruud.  Prior to that, 2021 had been a poor season for Grigor, as he was only 15-14.  Dimitrov’s last two wins this week were his most impressive in a long time.  He first came back from a set and two breaks down against top-seeded Medvedev, then survived a third-set tiebreak against Hubert Hurkacz.  When Norrie and Dimitrov met at the Miami Masters event in March, Cam prevailed 7-5, 7-5.  In the last round, Norrie simply walloped Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2.  Based on his current level of play, I like Cam to win his sixth straight semifinal.

Nikoloz Basilashvili (29) vs. Taylor Fritz (31) – Third on Stadium 1

What a comeback Fritz staged on Friday.  Down 5-2 in the third and two match points against a red-hot Sascha Zverev, he fought back to eventually prevail in a tiebreak for what was the best and most exciting win of his career.  Taylor has now taken out three consecutive top 15 players: Zverev, Sinner, and Berrettini.  Basilashvili had compiled an up-and-down year, but when he’s on, he’s been tough to defeat.  He’s already claimed two titles this year, in Doha and Munich.  It was in Doha where Basilashvili overcame Fritz in the semifinals.  A week later, Fritz avenged that loss in Dubai, in a match decided by a third-set tiebreak.  Their only other meeting occurred four years ago in Chengdu, when Taylor won as a qualifier ranked 94th in the world.  Coming off the emotional high of his huge, thrilling victory on Friday, I expect it will be difficult for the American to recover and be at his best on Saturday.  That leaves Nikoloz with an enormous opportunity to reach the biggest final of his career, and he possesses strong groundstrokes which enable him to dictate the outcome.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (2) vs. Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina – Hsieh and Mertens are looking for their second title as a team, after prevailing at Wimbledon in July.  Kudermetova and Rybakina just began teaming in August, when they reached the semifinals in Canada.

John Peers and Filip Polasek (7) vs. Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev – Peers and Polasek were finalists two weeks ago in San Diego.  The Russians have won their last eight matches as a team, dating back to their title run in Qatar this past March.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Daniil Medvedev Withdraws From Moscow

Daniil Medvedev has withdrawn from Moscow as he looks to recover for the last two tournaments of the season.

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Daniil Medvedev (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev has withdrawn from his home tournament in Moscow as he looks to get fully fit for the rest of the season.

 

The world number two suffered a disappointing exit in the fourth round of Indian Wells when he lost to Grigor Dimitrov from a set and 4-1 up.

After that disappointment Medvedev has decided to take some time off and therefore withdraw from the Kremlin Cup next week in Moscow.

Citing not being at 100% the Russian will now look to be fit for the rest of the season which ends at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, “Hello everyone! I am really sad to announce that this year I won’t be participating in Kremlin cup,” Medvedev announced on his social media platforms.

“It’s always special to have a chance to play in front of Russian fans. I signed in to give myself best chances to play, but with calendar this year being extremely tough I felt that my body is not ready 100% anymore.

“This decision was very tough for me but it has to be done in order to be able to finish 2021 season strong! Thank you and see all soon!”

Medvedev will next play the last Masters 1000 event in Paris-Bercy before finishing his season in Turin as he looks to finish his historic season with a flourish.

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