Professional Player's Tennis Training DiaryJul 13, 2023
Watching their favorite professionals claim big wins on the world's most famous courts is inspirational for many tennis players but it is the hard work behind the scenes that might provide the most powerful lessons and inspiration. Giselle Martin from Tennis Fitness the former trainer to Casey Dellacqua and many other pro tennis players shares a day in her life and what it takes!
Professional Player's Tennis Training Diary
DAY 1: Early Challenges
The grass-court season officially begins for Casey Dellacqua in Birmingham. With a big day in both singles and doubles (partnering with Ash Barty), we are up at 7 am, have breakfast at 8 am, and are ready for our scheduled pick-up at 9 am.
And this is where we face one of our first challenges of the short grass-court swing. In England, the rules won’t allow you to hit before 10 am, which means we need to be extremely organized to ensure everything runs smoothly. Accordingly, we squeeze in a tennis warm-up in the gym, including some shoulder rehab exercises, at 9.30 am.
With grass court time so limited, four players are usually hitting on the court instead of the usual two. If you’re scheduled to play the first match of the day, it can be testing for all four players out there. The main objective is to hit as many balls as possible and make the most of that 30 minutes – it can mean bumping anyone that gets in your way and jumping on every loose ball. There are few friends to be made out there! The competitiveness begins!
After the warm-up hit, Casey has 30 minutes until she’s due on center court. So here’s a quick run to the change rooms for a shower and strapping – once again, it is a challenge when you consider the two physios and four matches involving eight players, who might all be seeking treatment in that half-hour timeframe before their match. You need to be organized and prepared at every moment.
We meet at tournament control at 10.55 am to be escorted to center court, with Casey quickly eating a banana as she walks onto the court to fuel her body. All of that preparation works – Casey plays well and wins in 1hr.
Then it’s off to the gym to do some quick tennis stretches, ice bath, cool down, and a shower. There’s time for a quick trip into the player lounge for a lunch of chicken, rice, and salad to refuel for the doubles with Ash Barty.
After a change of clothes and more strapping in the locker room, we undertake another 20-minute warm-up that consists of some agility and foot speed. We want Casey to move like a butterfly and sting like a bee :)
Back onto the court for her doubles match. First set down then a rain delay.
Casey returns to the player lounge for another quick bite to eat (half a ham sandwich), then back out to finish the match in a super tiebreak which they win. Again, all that careful preparation has paid off.
Now it is recovery time..... into the pool for a recovery session followed by 20min of me stretching her.
We get something light to eat (2 x sushi rolls) and head back to the accommodation for a recovery sports massage and dinner.
Now before we move on to Day 2, I want to share the role of a good tennis trainer and what you need to consider when preparing for matches.
As a tennis strength and conditioning trainer you have endless jobs to do to make sure your player has everything they need in tournaments, making sure you have all the equipment you need, courts booked, transport organized, physio treatments scheduled, food planned, and a rough plan for the day.
Then you have all the hands-on work you need to do to back it up; warm-ups, cooldowns, massage, training sessions, preparing meals, preparing match drinks.
You never stop moving and you never stop thinking!
Most players are not going to be traveling around with a tennis trainer until they reach pro status.
So you will need to manage as many of the above areas on your own or with the help of a parent, coach, or friend.
Just make sure you are ticking as many boxes as you can to make sure you are as best prepared as possible! (check out the tournament guide below)
DAY 2: Always at the Ready
It’s onto the second round of the Birmingham Classic and Casey is scheduled for the third match, after 11 am.
It actually means she could play anytime from 1 pm–4 pm, so you just need to be ready.
We leave the hotel at 10 am for a warm-up hit at 11 am, heading straight to the courts on arrival.
I take Casey and Ash through 15 minutes of agility and speed before they hit.
Persuading players to do something extra in tournaments can sometimes require having a degree in negotiating but when they trust you they get it done!
After her warm-up hit, there is time for a shower, strapping, and some lunch (chicken, veggies, and rice). Keeping hydrated all the time with water is of paramount importance.
As a tennis trainer, you need to be always monitoring food consumption and hydration levels. You do not want your player walking on the court low in energy or dehydrated.
Also super important is to always be watching the score on the court you will be playing on, as matches can progress quickly. We usually try to start to warm up just after the first set has ended. After a quick pep talk with her coach, she’s off.
Casey has another great win but there’s more work to be done yet. After the match we go straight to the gym for a 15-minute tennis cooldown on the bike, followed by a good stretch.
Playing on the grass and being down so low on-court always seems to get those butt cheeks firing. Gluteal stretches are a must!
Casey showers then deal with her media requirements, and off we go back to our accommodation for a dinner of steak, potato, and vegetables, then a well-deserved massage.
DAY 3: Feats of Endurance
A little “sleep in” today – up at 7.30 am, breakfast at 8.30 am, and a desperately-needed, “get outta my way people” coffee run at 10 am.
By 11 am we’re off to the courts, starting with the usual 20-minute warm-up to get some stiffness out of the legs, with skipping, mobility, and resistant band exercises.
Time for Casey to have a warmup hit, which is once again with Ash Barty. It’s a very relaxed 30-minute hit, with only two players on the court now.
Now that we’re deeper into the tournament, a lot of girls have left Birmingham and are already onto their next destination of Eastbourne.
Casey had been working extremely hard over the previous six months and it showed, as her body was feeling great.
Considering this was the first grass-court tournament of the year, players can get quite sore in the lower back, hamstrings, and gluteals.
It is great to see all the planning and hard work paid off. As a tennis trainer, you pat yourself on the back in these moments.
In order to back up day after day like the pros you have to be fit, strong, flexible, have great stamina, and be able to keep moving with high intensity - Is that you?
If you want to get fitter, faster, and win more matches then you need a structured, tennis-specific training plan to follow - CLICK HERE
Casey is scheduled to play her fellow Australian Sam Stosur, in the fourth match after 11 am. Again it is a guessing game – they could be on any time from 2–5 pm.
She has rice/salad for lunch at 12.30 pm then it’s a waiting game. Players will usually just hang out in the player’s lounge watching TV, listening to music, chatting with their team, or going on a smart device.
Always with one eye on the score of the court, they’re playing on.
Showtime. At 4.15 pm we warm up with a combination of exercises – foot speed, agility, reaction, and power drills.
Considering Casey hasn’t eaten for four hours, she has a banana before she hits the court.
She needs to ensure she has enough petrol to get her through her match. It’s essential for tennis players to eat every two-four hours to replenish all the energy they’re expending.
Casey overcomes Sam in their first-ever battle on the WTA Tour, in 1 hour, and 45 minutes to advance to the quarterfinals. It’s the best performance by an Australian at the grass-court event in over a decade.
As we say, another great day in the office. She has another big day tomorrow (singles and doubles) so we need to ensure we have a good recovery session.
Over to the gym, where she spends 15 minutes jogging on the treadmill, then 20 minutes stretching.
After a quick protein shake, it’s off to media, then home.
Usually, when players finish their match, it’s a good two or three hours before they can really relax – this career is not for the faint-hearted!
We order some dinner on the way home from the courts, then I give her a massage and finish off with some treatment with the physio.
A solid 12-hour day. That’s right 12 hours.
Players have a great life; they are living their dream. But there are many behind-the-scenes aspects that people don’t see.
Many people would be very surprised to see how hard they work. It requires commitment and tennis endurance.
There is so much involved in having them back up day after day.
If you are a young aspiring player or play tournaments for recreation, we are not expecting this level of preparation during tournaments. What we do recommend as a guide is the following;
- Warm up - 20-30min before every match; Mobility exercises, activation exercises (eg tennis band exercises), specific movement drills.
- Hydration / Nutrition - Manage your food consumption ensuring you have enough fuel before you take the court. Aim to sip on the water every 20min when waiting for matches.
- Recovery - Cooldown by doing a slow jog or walk for 10min, followed by a stretch routine. Ice baths and tennis massage are optional if you have access to them (highly recommended)
- Matchday management - Keep an eye on your match schedule and remember match courts can change. Check in every 30-45min to make sure you are organized. Be ready to have a quick warm-up and eat something light if needed. Also, make sure you have everything ready to go; suncream, water, match snacks, rackets, etc.
- Energy management - Keep yourself relaxed and preserve energy whilst waiting to play a match. Listen to music, read, or chat with friends. Stay out of the sun and don't do anything that is going to burn energy.
- Debrief - Finish your day off whether you win or lose by going over the whole day. What worked and what didn't? A lot of players do not like doing this. If you want to get a better understanding of what works best for you in tournament mode you need to make sure you debrief in an open manner. You can do this with a coach, parent, or even just yourself. Then set some goals for the next time you play a tournament.
I hope you enjoyed the blog and now realize how hard and challenging life can be on the tour. Make sure you check out our tennis fitness programs and get yourself in the best possible shape to make sure the next time walk on the court for a match you are physically ready and mentally confident.
If you want to get more out of yourself and improve your tennis fitness check out our online programs here – http://www.memberstennisfitness.com
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