David Joyce's blog: Grand Slam Season
Grand Slam Season
Bonjour tout le monde!
This week’s piece comes to your inbox carrying croissants avec fromage et jambon because it’s that time of year where we approach the second of the year’s tennis Grand Slams, held on the clay courts of Roland Garros in Paris. Last week, Roger Federer and Serena Williams showed they had plenty left in the tank when they took out the Madrid Open on the (controversially) blue clay at the Caja Magica. Their longevity at the very top in this tough sport is incredible when we consider the demands placed on their system (physically and mentally).
All elite tennis matches are gruelling but none more so than on clay. It’s a slower surface, meaning the ball stays in play for longer, meaning the rallies are lengthier. This means that the French Open really is an extraordinary test of endurance and mental application.
"I suppose as a fan of the sport and the support behind the sport, I just wanted to acknowledge the great work of the performance staff behind the great players such as Nadal, Federer, Djokovich, Azarenka and the Williams sisters."
Tennis is a difficult sport to train for and I must admit that my time in the skill training-heavy environment of China probably has changed my training philosophy somewhat. It’s a subtle mind shift, but the most elite players are not the best because they are the fittest. They are at the pinnacle of the sport because they have the athletic capacities that allow them to execute their skills at the highest level of precision without decay.
If we have a look at the athletic capacities required of an elite tennis player we see requirements in the domains of:
- Aerobic power
- Anaerobic power
- Total body strength
- Reactive strength
- Straight line acceleration
- Change of direction speed
To make things even more complex, because of the injury profile of the sport with high rates of lower limb tendon disorders, shoulder injuries and low back dysfunction, as coaches we seek to maximise these capacities in a manner that seeks to reduce load. To make matters harder, we need to consider the fact that the top players spend a large amount of time travelling (or waiting to travel) and may not necessarily have access to fantastic gym facilities in the far-flung reaches of the world that tennis tournaments are now played in. Whilst it’s the only sport that seeks to exploit these capacities but with these constraints, it’s easy to see how complicated the task of conditioning the tennis player actually is.
It’s obviously too great a task to be able to provide integrated programmes that satisfy all of these areas in my weekly piece of 500 words. I suppose as a fan of the sport and the support behind the sport, I just wanted to acknowledge the great work of the performance staff behind the great players such as Nadal, Federer, Djokovich, Azarenka and the Williams sisters. In my opinion, the tasks they face are as tough as anyone has to face in professional sport.
Next week, we’ll continue the countdown to the Olympics (less than 70 days to go now!) by looking at the task that the selectors have ahead of them when choosing their teams for the Games. In many instances, it’s not as straightforward as you may think.
Stay robust amigos!
Sports Medicine and Performance Consultant for Team China leading up to the London Olympics. Holds Masters degrees in both Sports Physiotherapy and Exercise Science and lectures on the MSc in Sports Physio course at the University of Bath and on the MSc in S+C at Edith Cowan University.