Strategy used to play tennis has undergone a dramatic change within the last 20-30 years. One of the biggest changes is the difference in the need for powerful groundstrokes. The core of groundstrokes has transferred from flat and slice shots to a heavy topspin, high paced baseline game. Conventional groundstrokes were hit predominantly from a square or closed stance, but more and more groundstrokes are hit from semi-open and open stances on both the forehand and backhand strokes. In addition to the changes in stances is the increase in racket head speed due to better understanding of how to summate forces and transfer energy from the ground, up through the kinetic chain and out into the ball.
Synchronized coordination is what you think of when you are watching an old school tennis match. The player’s strokes seem very rigid and structured. They have stiff arms and their whole body follows one motion. Sequential coordination has many movements and actions taking place. The first actions are in the legs and the force they generate from the ground. This energy moves up the body and is transferred to the shoulder by rotation of the hips and trunk. From the shoulder, the energy moves to the elbow, the wrist, and then the racquet head. This generates greater racquet head speed. Having good sound technical knowledge about tennis strokes is very important for both the tennis coach as well any individual who works with tennis athletes from a physical perspective. Here are some exercises to increase strength in tennis specific techniques for groundstrokes.
1. Medicine Ball Deep Groundstroke - To create greater force off the ground and to lean into deep shots behind the baseline this drill is perfect. To simulate a deep defensive forehand, have the player start on the service mark. The trainer should toss a medicine ball to the right of the player 3-5 feet behind him/her. The player should retreat back to catch the ball in the same motion as the stroke. After catching the ball, players forcefully throws the ball back mimicking the stroke of a deep forehand or backhand.
2. Medicine Ball Short Groundstroke - To practice moving to and hitting short mid-court balls. Have the player start on the center service mark. The trainer should toss a medicine ball to the right or left of the player 3-5 feet in front him/her. The player should advance forward to catch the ball in the same motion as a stroke. After catching the ball, players forcefully throws the ball back mimicking the stroke of a short aggressive forehand or backhand.
3. Medicine Ball Wide - To help create greater power from an open stance groundstroke. Have the player start on the center service mark. The trainer should toss a medicine ball to the right or left of the player about 5 feet from him/her. The player should shuffle sideways to catch the ball in the same motion as a stroke. After catching the ball, players forcefully throws the ball back mimicking the stroke of an open stance forehand or backhand.
4. Medicine Ball Wall Open Stance - The athlete starts 5-8 feet from a solid wall. Focus on loading the hips and stretching the obliques in an open stance. Rotate the hips as the medicine ball is released as hard as possible at the wall.
5. Wrist Roller - This is important to increase forearm strength, flexion, and extension. Using a wrist roller device, have the athlete grab the device and extend his/her arms out at shoulder height. Slowly lower the weight by flexing and extending the wrist. Once it has reached the ground reverse the process till the weight is at the starting position.
For more details about tennis-specific education check out the Tennis Performance Trainer (TPT) certification program which is aimed toward the tennis coach to better understand aspects of physical training for tennis focused on improving performance and reducing injuries www.itpa-tennis.org/tpt.html
Fitness professionals, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors and other healthcare providers that train and/or treat tennis athletes should look to become a Certified Tennis Performance Specialist (CTPS) which is specifically designed to help individuals that understand sport science/anatomy/physiology and biomechanics, but are looking for tennis-specific information to help apply your knowledge in a more tennis-specific nature. www.itpa-tennis.org/ctps.html
*iTPA Members: More in-depth article posted on the iTPA Inner Circle Member Only Website.
By Josh Bramblett, iTPA Staff
The modern game of tennis continues to progress and evolve. There are numerous ways for any player at any skill level to participate. Physicality of tennis continually grows along with the demands placed on the body. The focus of the game has changed from finesse to power and speed.
The primary skills needed to play tennis are racquet and ball handling skills along with strokes. Even if a player has fantastic strokes these attributes are not enough to overcome a top-notch opponent. A high level of physical fitness is required to take the game to the next level. “Increasing evidence suggests that motor skills such as power, strength, agility, speed, and explosiveness, as well as mental strength, and a highly developed neuromuscular coordinating ability correlate with tournament performance.” (Fernandez) Non-conditioned athletes can impair all other tennis specific skills such as technique and tactics if fatigue sets in early into the match. A great article was published a few years ago by Dr. Jaime Fernandez-Fernandez in the Strength & Conditioning Journal. Here is a short summary providing the major practical aspects: Match activity during tennis play
A tennis match consists of short 4-10 second spells of high intensity exercise interrupted by 10-20 second periods of recovery. Further recovery of 60-90 seconds appears at changeovers. An average tennis match lasts about 1.5 hours. Of this time, a relatively small percentage is effective playing time. Players can run anywhere from 1,300 to 3,600 meters per hour of play depending on the levels of players. Take this information into account when scheduling training. Factors affecting match activity:
- Court Surface
- Tactical Behavior
- Thermal Stress
How to apply this information to a training program?
1. Training players should focus on performing high intensity exercise and recovering quickly. This is because the body gets its energy from anaerobic and aerobic pathways. Therefore, it is beneficial to perform aerobic and anaerobic training. For example, running sprints one day and running several miles the next.
2. It is important to train one’s aerobic capacity because a larger portion of energy needed can be supplied aerobically. This allows players to work at higher intensities for longer periods of time preventing fatigue.
3. Most of a tennis player’s training is focused on low to moderate intensity exercise. These exercises include “technical and tactical on-court training”(Fernandez). Therefore, additional high intensity aerobic exercise must be incorporated into training. Increasing the rate of rise in oxygen uptake is the goal. This can be accomplished by interval training.
Effective training is planned for players to use maximal effort for periods of less than 10 seconds with rest periods long enough for players to replicate maximal or near-maximal effort.
4. Develop a hydration schedule. While every player is unique, all players can take advantage of some general guidelines. While playing in competitions players should drink at every change over drinking anywhere from 1.2-1.6 Liters per hour. It is also recommended players drink a combination of water and sports drink.
5. Acclimatizing to hot humid conditions is critical. Acclimatization can help prevent major physiological problems and heat illness during competition. At least 2-3 days of preparation in hot/humid environments can help before competitions. Feel free to share any specific exercises for interval training!
*iTPA Members: A much more detailed version of this post is now on the iTPA Inner Circle Member Only Website.
Fernandez, J., Sanz-Rivas, D., Villanueva, A. (2009). A review of the Activity Profile and Physiological Demands of Tennis Match Play. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 31(4), 15-25.
Can Roger Federer reclaim his position as a top 4 player in the world?
by Josh Bramblett, iTPA Staff
After the 2013 season, Roger Federer has dropped in the rankings from number 2 in the world to number 6. Not making a grand slam final since 2002, Roger decided to make some drastic changes. He changed his coach, adjusted racquet head size from 90 square inches to 98 square inches, and reset mentally ready to start anew.
The 2014 Australian Open is the first major viewing point of how Federer will deal with all these changes. So far they seem to be paying off. Flying through his first 4 matches, Federer is into the quarterfinals to face his young rival Andy Murray who is coming off his best year on tour. In 2013, Federer went 0-7 against the other members of the big 4 (Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Federer) Going into the quarterfinal match Federer’s serve has been unstoppable. He has only been broken once in the tournament and his service numbers are higher than the whole 2013 season.
One year ago, at the 2013 Australian Open, Murray defeated Federer in 5 sets winning 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2. Murray played with great poise and showed the 17-time grand slam champion that he is a force to be reckoned with.
Murray: 21 aces, zero doublefaults, 64 percent first serves, 63 percent second serve points won, 62 winners, 47 unforced errors, for a +15 differential.
Federer: 5 aces, 2 doublefaults, 61 percent first serves, 42 percent second serve points won, 43 winners, 60 unforced errors, for a -17 differential.” (Roger, 2013)
Looking at Federer’s serve statistics in the 2014 Australian Open it certainly shows his game has progressed. With Federer’s game improving, he defeated Andy Murray winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 to earn a spot in the semi-finals.
Not only are Federer’s serve numbers impressive, his winner percentage and points earned percentage are higher than the top 4 seeds going into the quarterfinals. These statistics look promising for Federer to have a great 2014 season. With a deep run at the Australian Open, Federer has a chance to further extend his legacy as one of the all time greats in 2014.
This year’s semifinal draw looks completely different from 2013. Federer is the only remaining player that made it to the semifinals in 2013. In addition, last year's draw had the 4 top seeded players make it to the semi-final: Andy Murray, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, and Novak Djokovic. This year is very rare with only 1 of the top 4 seeded players making it to the semifinals. Why is this year's Australian Open so different from 2013? What has changed?
Federer has shown he is committed to returning to 1 of the top 4 players in the world. He has relegated going back home (to Switzerland) for the holidays to continue training in Dubai. Federer has also started his Australian Open campaign earlier than usual by playing at the Brisbane International Tournament. Rafael Nadal is also back to reclaim a second Australian Open (the only Grand Slam he has not won twice). Nadal’s presence affects the draw; without him Djokovic and Murray would be on opposite sides and Federer would be on the same side as Djokovic. Although Roger ultimately came up short against Nadal, it does show positive signs for him for the remainder of 2014.
Another factor is the heat wave in the first week of the tournament. Could the heat wave have possibly had an energy depleting effect on some of the players? Or have the other players in the top 10 (Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka - semifinalist) stepped up, determined to reach their potential?
Brown, S. (Jan. 20, 2014). Roger Federer’s Start to the Australian Open
. BSports. Retrieved from http://www.bsports.com/statsinsights/tennis/roger-federers-start-australian-open Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray: Australian Open live analysis
, (2013). Retrieved from http://tennis.si.com/2013/01/25/roger-federer-andy-murray-australian-open-live-analysis/
About the Author:
Doug Eng is a Master Professional with the US Professional Tennis Association and an International Master Professional with the Professional Tennis Registry, one of just 10 people worldwide to hold both honors. He is also CTPS Certified through the iTPA. Doug is co-chair of the USPTA National Education Committee and College Curriculum Committee and has worked with athletes of all levels, including ITF, WTA and Davis Cup players. In addition, Doug teaches and consults in sport psychology and physical training and does technical and tactical research. He has both a PhD in chemical engineering and an Educational Doctorate in Sports Psychology.
Do Lefties Have an Advantage in Tennis? By Doug Eng EdD PhD, CTPS, CSCS
One of tennis’ most often asked questions is whether lefties have an advantage. In recent years, Nadal-Federer rivalry has really stirred that question. But during the mid-70s, lefties flourished in the game as Connors, McEnroe, Laver, Vilas, Roche, Orantes, and Tanner were among the very best.
The recent article posted on the iTPA website by Loffing, Hagemann and Strauss  adds one of the most detailed studies of handedness in tennis players. It includes a quantitative analysis of the WTA and ATP tours over a 38-year period. Comparatively, it also examines a large cohort of amateurs (3793 men and women) at the club level. The authors conclude that left-handers at the ATP level have had an advantage over the years (since 1973), but that advantage has significantly diminished. WTA players, however, showed almost no impact on handedness. In amateur rankings, for both male and female players, rankings were slightly skewed towards lefties.
Basically, we can ask, what are implications of the study? One of the most fascinating bodies of research concerns that of handedness in sports. It has been often suggested that mano-a-mano sports such as fencing  and boxing  can confer a distinct advantage for the left-handed competitor. In many team sports, handedness also confers an advantage if tactical options are similar for left and right playing fields. For example, ice hockey and baseball have abnormal number of left-handed athletes. But if asymmetry exists as in golf, lefties are rare. Furthermore for sports that pit competitors against the environment, the lefty population is the same as the non-playing normal population. The mano-a-mano advantage has also been demonstrated in primitive cultures  where the more violent cultures have higher percentages of left-handers in the population and less violent cultures have fewer lefties. In addition, we long accept that men tend to be more aggressive or violent than women. In fact, male lefties outnumber female lefties 1.23 : 1 .
Most of the sporting world’s handedness is based on two basic types of lefties: natural and environmental. Rafael Nadal is an example of an environmental lefty. He is a natural righty but was changed to a lefty by his uncle and coach, Toni Nadal. In team sports like baseball and ice hockey, there are quite a few environmental lefties. They are natural right-handed athletes who adapt to their positions (e.g, left wing) to seek tactical advantages. Some sports including golf have fewer lefties than the general population. Part of the reason had been offered that golf left-handed equipment is less available and many feel that golf courses are naturally designed with an advantage for right-handed players. Therefore, many lefty golfers conform to rules of the game and play right-handed. The same is also true for some cultures. Many formal cultures such as Mexico, China, India or Japan impress conformity and most natural lefties become environmental righties. In these countries, typically the lefty population is 4% or less . Many natural lefties change according to the rules of the game or society.
Lest we get too far from the sport of tennis, let’s bounce back to the court. Loffing et al found that the lefty advantage is small and exists at the ATP level and the club level but not the WTA level. Over the years, the ATP advantage of lefties has diminished. Like other researchers they attribute the lefty advantage to frequency-dependent selection. In short, that means if an athlete is not accustomed to seeing lefties, the element of surprise or better yet, the righty, will make a few more mistakes against the lefty as opposed to the righty. Today’s athletes are better prepared and perhaps train against lefty practice partners more often than thirty or forty years ago. The authors explained that this frequency of preparation might sink the lefty advantage. It is generally accepted that there is no genetic advantage of left-handed tennis players except this frequency-dependent selection.
The authors, however, do not consider the evolution of the two-handed backhand. Forty years ago, few players used the two-hander on either tour. Today, typically at least 95% of the WTA players have a two-handed backhand that may be good as the forehand. On the ATP Tour, the number of one-handers in the top 100 is typically around 25%. If one considers the equality of the WTA forehand/backhand combination and the relatively strong return of serve (neutralizing any lefty serves), then it should be predicted there is no advantage on the WTA Tour. With 25% one-handers on the ATP Tour, there apparently is room for some lefties to exploit the one-handed backhand. Throw in the lefty serve and that may explain why the Nadal statistically may dominate the Federer’s. But since only 25% of the ATP population are one-handers, that advantage becomes small. Of course, this is theoretical and has not been proven. In fact, even in modern times, we have seen more one-handers as dominant players (e.g, Sampras, Federer) than two-handers. Nevertheless, the authors point out that a return to a lefty-dominated tour is very unlikely.
The suggested frequency-dependent selection indicates that coaches can prepare their right-handed players by regularly sparring with lefties. After getting used to the lefty game, the right-handed player can neutralize any advantage that lefties may have. Best practices may involve 1) selection of left-handed practice partners, particularly on the serve and 2) adjustment of tactical patterns such as hitting down-the-line more frequently if to a weaker side. Such is one reason Novak Djokovic has good success against Rafael Nadal as Novak’s down-the-line backhand (to Rafa’s backhand) may be the best in men’s tennis. Another tactical adjustment might be practicing the inside-out, inside-in pattern with emphasis on the inside-in as the setup shot. Most right-righty matches rely on the inside-out rally from the ad court to open the court by pounding the backhand. In the righty-lefty match, the inside-out becomes the precursor to the inside-in forehand, possibly as an approach shot. A final tactical change to coach can be the increased use of the right-handed slice serve. Today, most players are content with flat, big serves or heavy topspin or kick serves. The slice serve isn’t utilized as much at the elite junior boy’s, college men’s or ATP level. So lefties may taste some of their own medicine.
As a team coach, it is always good to have a couple lefties for the rest of the team to practice returning serve. In addition, in doubles, we always hear of the great lefty-righty duos like McEnroe-Fleming, Woodbridge-Woodforde or the Bryan brothers. We see similar match-ups with ice hockey front lines and baseball pitchers.
From a training perspective, it is important to train athletes symmetrically in preparation of movement and core strength. Tennis is already an asymmetric sport where the dominant side takes a heavy toll. Tennis players can use dumbbells in asymmetric training where they can work the left and right sides of the body separately. Athletes then become more aware of which side is weaker and which is stronger. For example, the one-legged Romanian deadlift or one-legged squat can be useful for training to support the high eccentric forces involved in tennis (e.g, landing on the serve). In addition, asymmetric training can reduce the total amount or weight to lift which can reduce forces on the back or other injury-susceptible areas. Also, it involves more proprioceptive balance in tennis-specific body positions. Separately training both sides of the body can also important in lefty-righty matches since rallies may tend to actually differ from righty-righty matches due to tactical differences. For example, in a medicine ball toss, training both sides equally is important. Most players favor the forehand over the backhand. And lefties, like Nadal does to Federer, may exploit the backhand side of the righty. Training for the lefty is not unlike dealing with a pusher versus a serve-and-volleyer in terms of using slightly different energy systems. Against the pusher, most players will involve the aerobic energy system more than against a player who likes to end points quickly by coming to the net. Hence, the training principle of specificity and deliberate practice are strongly implicated.
As a final note, such tactical and training implications can be important for the recreational or advanced male tennis player as Loffing and co-workers suggested. But for female elite players, the authors concluded there was almost no advantage. Why not an advantage? It is difficult to say why. The amateur players were slightly skewed towards a greater number of lefties ranked high at the clubs. There could be a number of reasons. First, the skew may be related to the best servers and at the club level, the lefty servers may have an advantage, male or female. In addition, at the club level, the study probably included some adults 30-60 years old. Chances are more of these players may have one-handed backhands than the WTA Tour (<5%). Thus, the female club players may show a lefty effect. In addition, at the WTA level, the return of serve is considered relatively more effective than at the ATP level. For 95% WTA players with two-handed backhands, many may have equal backhands and forehands. And at the club level, typically among older populations, the one-handed backhands for men and women are more frequent than the WTA. With a lesser serve and equal backhand-forehand sides, the WTA scenario confers little advantage for the lefty.
In summary that doesn’t mean teach every player a two-handed backhand. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the Sampras, Grafs and Federers of the tennis world. We need to consider that the one-handers usually have better all-court games and if the game ever changes to encourage more net play, things might shift. This argument is somewhat speculative as the authors did not investigate the one-handed backhand efforts. Finally, today’s ATP and WTA one-handers evolve in a world of two-handers and to reach a high pinnacle they need to survive with a high-caliber one-handed backhand. Forty years ago, generally almost everyone had one-handers and didn’t have to compete with the modern two-handers so competitive natural selection wasn’t as great a factor. Today ATP and WTA players with one-handers today have to be good on that side. That may also diminish the left advantage.
Ultimately we will have to wait for another chapter in the southpaw debate. Meanwhile, keep training those players!
1. Loffing F., Hagemann N., Strauss B. (2012). Left-Handedness in Professional and Amateur Tennis. PLoS ONE 7
2. Harris LJ (2010). In fencing, what gives left-handers the edge? Views from the present and the distant past. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition
3. Gursoy R. (2009). Effects of left- or right-hand preference on the success of boxers in Turkey. Br J Sports Med 43
4. Faurie C., Raymond M. (2005). Handedness, homicide and negative frequency-dependent selection. Proc. R. Soc. B 272
5. Papadatou-Pastou M
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.., Jones G.V
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6. Shimizu A., Endo M. (1983). Handedness and Familial Sinistrality in a Japanese Student Population. Cortex 19(2
A few months ago we posted a short blog titled Tennis The Best Sport For Education and Health In The Young Athlete (http://www.itpa-tennis.org/1/post/2013/03/tennis-the-best-sport-for-education-and-health-in-the-young-athlete.html
) highlighting some of the findings of the report from a study commissioned by USTA. Here are a few more interesting facts from the report. In a very interesting report funded by USTA Serves (The National Charitable Foundation of the United States Tennis Association) were data from over 54, 000 youth in the United States between 8th and 10th grade were analyzed with 4,278 of these youth being tennis participants. The purpose of the study was to analyze various academic, social and behavioral outcomes (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). Achieving an “A” in School The data presented in 2013 seems to show a shifting on the typical tennis youth participant from a history of being an “elite” or “country club” sport to being similar to other non-contact sports in the US demographic. The suggestions in the report that this shift is likely due to greater opportunities and accessibility to tennis over the past two decades (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013).
The percentage of tennis participants in this study who reported an average grade of “A” was almost twice as high as non-sports participants. 48% of tennis players throughout the US reported an average grade of “A” as compared with only 25% for non-sport participants. (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). 48% of students in 8-10th grade reporting an “A” is a very interesting statistic. Interested to hear from the iTPA membership what you feel this statistic is saying. Is it how smart tennis players are? Is it a sign of grade inflation in the school system? Is it due to parental/family expectations on academics over individuals that do not play sports?
Suspensions In School
17% of tennis participants reported being suspended during the past school year, which was considerably lower in contact sports (27%), non-contact sports (23%), non-athletes (27%) (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). “Because youth athletic participation in the U.S. is generally greater among more affluent and predominantly White populations, the discovery of positive outcomes attributed to sport participation are often later found to be owed to socioeconomic differences or racial/ethnic differences (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013).” What are initially considered the “benefits” of youth sports participation are often more fundamentally owed to larger social forces that flow through sports rather than the primary influence of sports (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). However, this study found that positive relationships between tennis participation and academic performance were evident across family socioeconomic levels (low, middle and high) (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). Meaning that at every socioeconomic level, tennis participation was most highly correlated with higher academic performance than other sports participation and non-sport participation (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). This paragraph is one of the most impactful findings from the entire report. It clearly shows that tennis participation is linked to greater academic performance even when socioeconomic levels are accounted for.
An interesting finding for parents: High School tennis athletes had lower rates of consumption for alcohol, marijuana and cigarette smoking compared to other athletes and especially to non-athletes (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). Interesting tip for parents: One way to reduce your child’s potential for performing illegal activities and using illicit substances is to have them participate in tennis.
Here is the link for the executive summary of The USTA Serves Special Report, More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health http://assets.usta.com/assets/822/15/More_than_a_Sport_Executive_Summary-v7-web.pdf
Here is the link for the full report of the survey data of The USTA Serves Special Report, More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health http://assets.usta.com/assets/822/15/More_than_a_Sport_Full_Report_2.27.13.pdf
Cameron has been coaching for over 10 years. Once discovering his true passion for coaching, Cameron has been on a roll developing players. He is currently coaching several professionals on the ATP & WTA tour, as well as a group of juniors. Cameron has developed multiple top nationally ranked juniors and collegiate players.
Cameron joined the ITPA to further his knowledge base. The TPT certification has been instrumental in helping out his players. It is one of the most thorough courses he has ever taken.
“TPT is a must have for any coach working with or developing elite level players.”
You can contact Cameron at CameronMMoore@gmail.com
Guest Post #1: From iTPA Certified Member Lalo Vicencio, USPTA 1, CTPS
The last 6 weeks have been an incredible journey of learning and getting to know great coaches and friends. First I attended the MTPS (Master Tennis Performance Specialist) certification in Atlanta where I met amazing coaches/trainers/physical therapists from different countries who are working at the top of their profession in the tennis industry. Then, I spent 5 days at the ITF World Wide Coaches Conference (WWCC) which took place in Cancun, Mexico.
The WWCC is the highest level of tennis conference in the world and it takes place every two years in a different country. Every country has different requirements to endorse their coaches and allow them to register. The conference goes for 5 days with a great variety of presentations and speakers. It is very interesting to see how speakers from different countries approach tennis with a different perspective, different drills, point of view, etc. Also, it is interesting to see how researchers working for their tennis federations around the world are using statistics in different studies to make tennis better and stronger for their countries.
During the WWCC you get to know coaches from all over the world, sometimes you have lunch with a coach you just met, sometimes you talk with the person next to you during a presentation or sometimes you can chat and have your picture taken with a former Grand Slam champion, an author of many books (like Bruce Elliot, Miguel Crespo, etc.) or with one of our great American coaches like Tom Gullikson or Doug McCurdy.
As I reflect on the reasons why I should spend all this time and money to go to a different country and learn or stay comfortably at home and do what I am used to do every day on the court … Well, once you experience the conference, you will want to come back again and again. As I continue with my reflection, I could see the biggest names in the research world along with the top coaches who have attended and presented on this conference for the past 2 decades. They all still sit on first row taking notes relentlessly from all presenters. They all have the drive to keep learning and keep getting better on what they do. This is perhaps a great example for all of us coaches to never think that we “know it”. The journey of learning never ends!
USPTA 1, CTPS
Author of the first manual for strength and conditioning for Mexico’s Federation WWCC 2013 Speaker Davis Cup Fitness Coach for Mexico Director of TOP Tennis Team Academy in El Paso Texas ITPA member
Guest Post #2: iTPA Certified Member Cameron Moore, TPT
The ITF World Wide Coaches Conference recently took place in Cancun, Mexico. 900 participants from around the world filled the conference center. The presenters are some of the top coaches, researchers, and minds in the game today. The theme is the long-term development of a high performance player. Here are some of the key take ways from my experience.
Dr. Jim Loehr (USA) presented on the inner voice of the player. He emphasized building character first. Loehr talked about developing the inner voice to be the best coach possible when you play. His speech was about training the player to be self-reliant and to look inward in the moments that count.
Bruce Elliott (AUS) presented twice on the female professional serve. The 1st was on the development from Junior to Pro. The keys were that juniors tend to have a higher ball toss and move faster into the trophy position. The Pro players contact the ball more often at the zenith of the toss and take more time to get into the trophy position. This is helpful information when coaching younger players and understanding their needs. His 2nd talk was on how the Female pro serve is a similar version of the male serve. In talking with him further, he believes that if a female player has the proper service technique, she will be able to develop a powerful serve that is comparable to a male player.
Beni Linder (SUI) presented on physical support in specific footwork situations. He offered an on court demonstration on how to develop footwork using specific games to simulate match like situations. His games involve great movement patterns, tactics, and a competitive environment. He emphasizes playing with the hip level when working movement.
Mark Kovacs (AUS) presented on training considerations for the tall athlete. His presentation was filled with on court drills and exercises geared toward working with tall players. He emphasizes working flexibility of the player and making sure they are low to the ground when they load. They were solid exercises for working stability and then going straight into hand fed drills. These drills give your players are great sense of how to incorporate the training into play.
Piotr Unierzyski (POL) presented on how to work the serve more effectively. The 4 usual problems he looks for in the serve are: Stance/Balance, Grip, Backswing/Arm/Elbow position, and Kinetic Chain. He spoke about arranging the practices with the serve. Piotr uses the warm up to work coordination of the upper body. Then he likes to move into the service motion. Piotr talks about quality over quantity. When practicing the serve, he suggests mixing up slice, flat, and kick after every 3 to 4 balls so you’re not over working the same motion.
It was a great experience to be apart of the ITF WWCC. All the coaches who attended were motivated to improve and share their experiences. If you have the opportunity to attend, don’t pass it up.
Cameron Moore, TPT
All tennis players want to move faster on court and much of the training that many players perform is focused heavily on improving first step quickness and acceleration. Although training acceleration is vital for success as a tennis athlete, it is just as important to train for deceleration. An athlete who only develops acceleration will be great for one movement to a stroke, but will have difficulties slowing down quickly and then transitioning to an effective recovery movement pattern to change direction and move to a second, third or fourth shot. It is important to remember that:
Acceleration + Deceleration = Effective Tennis Specific Movement
Dynamic balance is paramount in tennis, specifically during the deceleration movement phase before the player makes contact with the ball. Dynamic balance is the ability of the athlete to maintain a controlled center of gravity while the athlete is moving. This efficient energy transfer from the ground up through the entire kinetic chain (from the ground all the way into the ball) will result into a more efficient and powerful tennis stroke - faster racket head speeds and ball velocities.
Eccentric strength requires training of the muscles during the lengthening phase of the muscle action. Eccentric strengthening exercises need to be performed both on two feet as well as one foot. Nearly all tennis movements require the athlete to load one side of the body more than the other, and it is paramount that these uneven loading patterns are trained eccentrically as well as concentrically. Some great research performed by Dr. Todd Ellenbecker (chair of the certification commission of the International Tennis Performance Association) as well as other researchers have shown that physically trained humans can support approximately 30% more weight eccentrically than concentrically. Therefore, eccentric focused strength training needs to be incorporated into an athlete’s periodized program to successfully maximize their strength gains. A second major benefit of training eccentric strength is to aid in the prevention of injuries. A large portion of injuries to tennis players are due to insufficient eccentric strength in both the lower and upper body.
Power for the tennis player is what directly translates into greater racket head speed and ball velocity. The power equation is (Force X Distance) / Time. In simple terms, a powerful athlete produces high forces, over the greatest distance, in the shortest period of time. The importance of power training for tennis is well understood by most coaches and trainers; however, power is typically trained with the major focus on the concentric phase of the muscle movements. Most medicine ball drills and plyometric movements focus on developing power. However, training focused on the landing aspect of the plyometric movements or the catching (instead of throwing) aspect of the medicine ball workouts are many times overlooked or not emphasized appropriately.
Reactive strength has been defined as the ability to quickly change during the muscle contraction sequence from the eccentric to the concentric phase in the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC), and is a specific form of muscle power. A plyometric training program which utilizes lateral and multidirectional movements while limiting time on the ground will develop reactive strength and subsequent power outputs in the muscles and movements that are seen during tennis play. This type of training directly relates to a tennis athlete in their recovery sequences between shots and also during the times in a point when they are “wrong-footed” and are in need of rapid change of direction.
Deceleration ability of a tennis athlete is closely linked to successful agility and multi-direction movements. As such, it needs to be trained in a multi-focused training program with appropriate rest periods and loads that are progressed based on the tennis player’s growth, maturation and training stages. From a training perspective the posterior muscles of the tennis athlete needs to be a focus if the athlete is to become a successful player who has great deceleration ability. Training athletes to accelerate and be fast is only half the equation; deceleration before (or immediately after) racket and ball contact is a major link in the chain for successful performance, and if the deceleration link is not trained optimally the athlete will never reach his or her full potential. It is highly encouraged that you work with a certified tennis performance specialist (CTPS) who has the required knowledge, skills and abilities to specifically train tennis athletes as training for deceleration is challenging due the higher forces (predominantly due to eccentric muscle actions) that are applied to the athlete to stop quickly.
Having an accurate way to measure your training intensity (from a player’s perspective) or monitoring your player (as a coach) is one of the most valuable metrics to help design training programs and add/reduce volume and /or intensity. Although much technology exists today, this post is focused on a tried and true technique that has stood the test of time in the scientific literature focused on monitoring an athlete’s intensity. What is RPE?
The Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a very common rating scale used in the scientific literature. It is a simple scale of asking someone how hard or difficult was the exercise or session. It is a good measurement of exercise intensity.
Perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is working. It is based on the physical sensations a person experiences during physical activity, including increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue. Although this is a subjective measure, a person's exertion rating may provide a fairly good estimate of the actual heart rate during physical activity (Borg, 1982). Since the 1980s thousands of studies have used this scale to evaluate how difficult the exercise session, training or competition was. Over multiple decades it has held up to scrutiny and is one of the best measures available. Even with all the great technology that is available today, the RPE scale is still the one of the most reliable and accurate ways to measure how intense an athlete feels a workout has been.
From a tennis perspective, the use of the RPE scale is good way to quickly and easily gain a read on how difficult or intense the training session or match was. It has been used by coaches and tennis scientists for decades to monitor athletes to see the perceptions of different types of training programs and to provide insight into when to increase or decrease intensity of workouts. One interesting study has recently been published in Australia highlights that when tennis players and coaches both evaluate the intensity of e a training session, rather good consistency existed when training on hardcourts. However, when playing on claycourts coaches underrate the perception of the training session (Reid et al, 2013). This underrating is in comparison to player rating of the same session. For The Player:
Monitor your sessional-RPE at the end of each training session and provide yourself a rating of the entire workout on a daily basis. Over the course of a few weeks you will start seeing some trends in the workouts and you can start using this information to adjust the difficulty of the workouts based on your goals. For The Coach:
Monitor your player’s sessional-RPE daily and have the player monitor his or her sessions daily. Compare the ratings to see how close the player and coach and use this information to effectively adjust training sessions to continue to make weekly improvements. The Scales
Two scales are commonly used. The original scale was developed by Gunnar Borg and follows a 6-20 range. Whereas, the modified Borg CR-10 scale follows a 0-10 scale..
Traditional Borg Scale (6-20) this information has been adapted from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/measuring/exertion.html
The traditional Borg scale was designed to coincide with an athlete’s heart rate. Therefore, 6 represents a resting heart rate value (60) and 20 represents a maximum heart rate value (200). Look at the rating scale below while you are engaging in an activity; it ranges from 6 to 20, where 6 means "no exertion at all" and 20 means "maximal exertion." Choose the number from below that best describes your level of exertion. This will give you a good idea of the intensity level of your activity, and you can use this information to speed up or slow down your movements to reach your desired range.
Try to appraise your feeling of exertion as honestly as possible, without thinking about what the actual physical load is. Your own feeling of effort and exertion is important, not how it compares to other people's. Look at the scales and the expressions and then give a number.
6 No exertion at all
Extremely light (7.5)
9 Very light
13 Somewhat hard
15 Hard (heavy)
17 Very hard
19 Extremely hard
20 Maximal exertion
9 corresponds to "very light" exercise. For a healthy person, it is like walking slowly at his or her own pace for some minutes
13 on the scale is "somewhat hard" exercise, but it still feels OK to continue.
17 "very hard" is very strenuous. A healthy person can still go on, but he or she really has to push him- or herself. It feels very heavy, and the person is very tired.
19 on the scale is an extremely strenuous exercise level. For most people this is the most strenuous exercise they have ever experienced. 0-10 Scale
0 - Nothing at all
1 - Very light
2 - Fairly light
3 - Moderate
4 - Some what hard
5 - Hard
7 - Very hard
10 - Very, very hard Resources:
Current Comment from the American College of Sports Medicine on RPE - http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/perceivedexertion.pdf
BORG, G. (1982) Psychophysical bases of perceived exertion. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise,
14 (5), p. 377-81
REID, M et al. (2013) Physiological, perceptual, and technical responses to on-court tennis training on hard and clay courts. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 27 (6); 1487-1495
Richard Woodroof, TPT
Richard Woodroof is the owner and Director of Training for RAW Tennis Performance in Boca Raton, FL. He is an ITPA-certified Tennis Performance Trainer; Speed, Agility & Quickness (SAQ) coach; a 20-year member of the USPTA and is USTA Sport Science Level-1 certified. Richard worked with the ATP 2011 Most Improved Player Alex Bogomolov, Jr and other ATP players including Jesse Levine as well as WTA players Anna Tatishvili and Heidi El-Tabakh. He also works with several Challenger and Futures pros. Richard trains some of the top junior players in the USTA and ITF players from Italy, Monte Carlo, Brazil, Canada, Kazakhstan, Trinidad and Mexico.
Richard played tennis at the University of North Carolina and spent 18 years as a High Performance coach. Working in the tennis hotbed of Southern California, he worked with dozens of junior players who earned scholarships in every major NCAA conference. He spent time coaching on the WTA Tour and was also a college coach. Richard’s philosophy for training is “movement, not muscles” and he specializes in tennis movement.
To find out more information please go to www.RAWTennisPerformance.com
where you can sign up for newsletter updates and read his blog. You can also follow Richard on Twitter @RAW10sPerform and like his Facebook page.Check out clips from a recent audio interview with the iTPA.