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.
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.
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.
Ons Jabeur Acknowledges Mental Toughness Ahead Of Charleston Semi-Finals
Ons Jabeur has acknowledged her improvement in her mental game as she heads into her fourth WTA semi-final in Charleston.
Ons Jabeur has acknowledged her improvement in the mental parts of her game after reaching the Charleston semi-finals.
The Tunisian comfortably beat Coco Gauff 6-3 6-3 in 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the last four in Charleston.
It was a dominant performance from the world number 28 who broke on six occasions to set up a semi-final against Danka Kovinic.
However yesterday’s win was also evidence that Jabeur’s mental toughness has improved as in 2020, the Tunisian was 0-5 in quarter-final matches and 0-2 against Gauff having lost in Lexington and Rome to the American teenager.
Speaking after the victory, Jabeur admitted that it was nice to settle those demons last night, “Maybe this year is a revenge year for me,” Jabeur told the WTA website.
“Honestly, mentally-wise I’m much better. I’m getting there. I had my opportunities against her last year. She’s a great player. I know exactly what I’m going to face and I was ready for the battle.
“I’m glad that I’m playing good now. I know that clay is amazing and I gotta say, I have been enjoying sliding a lot lately. It’s the best part of the clay. I like the green clay. It’s different than the red clay but I like it. The bounce is not too high, it’s not too low. It’s a good balance for me.
“I’m just trying to play my game. I’m trying to enjoy after a very tough start to the season. A lot of expectations. I’m really glad I got to prove myself this week and I’m in the semi-finals.”
Jabeur will look to continue her good form in 2020 which saw her climb into the world’s top 30 and end the season with a 27-11 win-loss record.
Saturday will be Jabeur’s fourth WTA career semi-final and her first since 2019 where she reached the last four in Tianjin.
The meeting with Kovinic will be the first WTA Tour meeting of their career although Jabeur won their meeting on the ITF circuit in Budapest in 2018 6-2 6-1.
Lorenzo Musetti’s Run Ended By Djere In Cagliari
Sonego, Fritz, Basilashvili, join Serb in semi-final line-up.
Italian teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti’s run at the Sardegna Open was ended by Laslo Djere in an error-strewn match played out in tricky conditions.
The 19-year-old, who has looked in supreme form this week and ousted top seed Dan Evans in a second round thriller on Thursday, appeared to run out of steam in the deciding set as the Serb ran out a 6-4 4-6 6-2 winner.
The strong gusts that have blown across the centre court all week at the Cagliari Tennis Club appeared to have saved their best efforts for this encounter, as both men seemed to be affected by the tricky conditions. Djere particularly struggled on his serve, offering up 8 double faults, but he was still able to take control of the final set as his young opponent faded.
Musetti will no doubt still be pleased with his work in Sardinia. He will be one to watch next week as a Wild Card at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he has been drawn against Aslan Karatsev in the first round, with a potential second round clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Meanwhile, third seed Lorenzo Sonego ensured there would still be an Italian representative in the last four as he came through against Yannick Hanfmann 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3. The German started impressively and had the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4 in the second set but was unable to convert. Sonego then recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the ensuing tie break to level proceedings, before going on to seal the win.
In the semi-finals Sonego will have the chance to gain revenge for his defeat in Doha last month to Taylor Fritz. The American second seed came through 6-3 6-4 against an out-of-sorts Aljaz Bedene.
Fritz appeared to be cruising at a set and a break up, with his opponent struggling to make an impact on the gangly American. It left Bedene somewhat uncharacteristically venting his frustration, but this seemed to work for the Slovenian as he was able to break back. It was Bedene’s serve that let him down at a crucial moment, two double faults at 3-3 helping to hand Fritz another crucial, and ultimately decisive, break.
The final semi-final spot was claimed by Nikoloz Basilashvili, who defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 7-5 4-6 6-3 under the floodlights in the final action of the day. Struff has struggled for form so far in 2021 but had looked solid so far this week, and the match-up led to some predictably entertaining rallies. After a tight first two sets, Doha champion Basilashvili was able to take advantage of some Struff errors early in the third, surging to a 3-0 lead. Despite a mini-fightback from the German, Basilashvili clung on to book a Saturday meeting with the unseeded Djere.
Lorenzo Musetti Blasts ‘Disrespectful’ Evans After Reaching Cagliari Quarter-Finals
Lorenzo Musetti has called Dan Evans disrespectful after reaching the Cagliari quarter-finals.
Lorenzo Musetti has hit out at Dan Evans after beating him to reach the last eight in Cagliari.
The Italian rising star defeated Evans in a tight contest 6-1 1-6 7-6(8) to reach the quarter-finals in Cagliari.
Musetti saved four match points having been 4-0 and 6-3 down in the final set tiebreak before rallying back to claim victory.
However after the match there was an unusual celebration from the 19 year-old, who threw his racket into the ground.
Clearly frustrated, the Italian made it known after the match that he didn’t appreciate Evans’ attitude, “There are respectful experienced players on the pitch. Others like Evans, they try to use my youth to shoot (win) matches,” Musetti was quoted as saying by TennisHead in his post-match press conference.
“But it’s all experience for me. Evans disrespected me. I don’t want to be treated like a young man. It was really tough. I was 3-6 down in the tiebreak and he was playing good, always going to the net and always aggressive.
“I tried to stay calm and tried to play each point. That is what I did and it worked, so I am really happy and really proud of myself with this win.”
During the match, Evans implemented some unusual return positioning in the second set which is what may have upset the Italian.
However the main thing is Musetti is now into the quarter-finals in Cagliari as he continues his rise among tennis’ elite.
The Italian has already beaten the likes of Stan Wawrinka, Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov as he has already broken into the top 100.
Musetti will play Laslo Djere of Serbian in the last eight on Friday.
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