4 key steps to prepare you for a Tennis Tournament
One under-valued aspect of ensuring peak performance is preparation. The hours spent on the practice court play an important role in how a player will perform however the week, days and hours leading up to match can have an equally important impact in the level of play that your player can produce.
Developing a pre-tournament routine in tennis and constantly refining this routine, tournament after tournament, may mean the difference between performing well or delivering a sub-par performance.
Tennis Tournament preparation can be grouped into four categories:
A week before the tournament
The night before your match
The morning of your match
The week before the Tennis tournament
Consider tapering your fitness program. Include some tennis specific drills (movement patterns with correct footwork, work: rest ratio similar to a tennis point and visual and reactive exercises) along with decreasing the load so as the body has a chance to re-energize before the event.
Try and have a pre-competition week in training. This may involve more competitive situations and lots of point play. Be sure to have a purpose for your point play and practice using your strengths and applying new skills that you have learnt during your previous weeks training. Pre-competition week also involves producing a “mindset” that will allow you to perform at your best.
Ensure you check the fact sheet. It is important to be aware of sign-in times, the distance from the courts to the hotel, availability of practice courts and singles/doubles format.
The night before the Tennis Tournament
The match starts now. What you do the night before your match will have an impact on your performance the following day. Consider the following:
Ensure proper fueling. This means both nutrition and hydration. Having a meal high in carbohydrates (rice, pasta, potatoes etc.) will give you the energy you need for tomorrow's matches. The simplest form of hydration is water. During the summer months where you may sleep with the air conditioning on, understand that this may dehydrate you while sleeping. Other sources of hydration may include an electrolyte solution, coconut water or nimbu pani.
Match Schedule. Check to see what time and on which court you are playing on. Some tennis tournaments allocate fixed times (e.g.: not before 10:00am) whereas some tournaments will have a “followed by” system. This means that as soon as one match is over the organizer will put another match on immediately. Depending on the tennis tournament format, matches may take 30 minutes to 2 hours in duration. Once you calculate when your first match will be (taking into account travel time) you can then go ahead and plan for the next day.
Check your pro bag. Do you have all the equipment you will need for your tennis tournament? Essentials should include your racquets, fresh grips, spare sets of strings, water bottle, skipping rope, Thera band and sunscreen/cap. If you have two matches in a day consider taking a change of shorts, shirts, socks etc. There are many other items that you may consider including such as your phone (so as you can listen to some music before your match), spare shoe laces, tennis balls, wrist bands etc.
Tomorrow's practice. Book a practice court for the morning and organize a practice partner. Depending on the tennis tournament, practice courts may/may not be available. If they make full use of them. Generally you will need to book the court (practice courts are generally provided free of charge for tournament participants) and make an effort to get a practice partner who plays in a similar way to your next round opponent.
Many players enjoy watching some tennis on television/internet before sleeping. Another option is mental imagery that can be done, 15-20 minutes before sleeping. This mental imagery takes the player mentally to tomorrow’s location and they can see themselves playing well.
Ensure adequate sleep. Generally most players will have 8 to 9 hours sleep. Make sure you set your alarm clock so you have adequate time to complete your morning match routine and travel time
The morning of the Tennis Tournament
Wake Up Time. Studies have shown that the average person takes 2 hours to wake up and be fully alert. Please keep this in mind as you cannot afford to be half asleep during the first three to four games of your match. In general I request my players to get out of bed 2 hours before the match.
Have a shower. Not so much from a hygiene perspective, but more from a “wake up” perspective. After a shower in the morning you will feel fresher and more alert.
Nutrition and hydration. what time you play your match will have a bearing on what you eat and drink before the match. It is also a matter of personal preference as to what and how much to eat. Generally smaller, lighter meals are preferred (cereal, fruit, eggs, toast etc.) however should you like something heavier and more filling such as aloo paratha, upma etc. feel free however please ensure adequate digestion time.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. In the morning I would start taking an electrolyte drink. The key is consistency. Keep taking small sips on a regular basis. Have a predetermined departure time (when will you leave the hotel/home) and arrival time. Take into account distance and what time of the day you will be traveling, traffic can be a nightmare sometimes. You also need to ensure that when you arrive at the venue you have enough time to warm up properly and get used to the tennis center environment.
Scout your opponent. If your schedule permits, arrive early and watch your potential next round of opponents. This is called “scouting” and basically involves watching these players in the hope of recognizing their strengths, weaknesses and/or patterns of play. For many pro players this is an essential component to their pre-match routine.
Post-match. Cool downs/recovery. Over the past five years more and more professionals are realizing the importance of a proper cool down/recovery routine. Cool downs can be done with a partner, there band or individually. Recovery may consist of using a foam roller, having a massage or going to a pool for a hydro therapy session.
One of the most important means of recovery is nutrition and hydration. Depending on the time of your next match, what you eat, how much you eat and when you eat will need to be considered.
Consider going home or back to your hotel. If you have enough time, I would always suggest you go back to the hotel for a shower, change of clothes and a possible short nap (power nap of 20-30 minutes can be very advantageous). The tennis tournament venue can be tiring, so heading back to the hotel and watching some television will allow you to mentally relax and “switch off” before heading back to the venue for your second match.
If you have failed to progress through to the next round and you are out of the tennis tournament, I would always suggest that you take the next day off. During this day off, try and reflect on what you learned about your game during this tournament and give both your body and mind a chance to recover.
As you become a more experienced competitor, I am confident that your tournament routine will not only become a more valued part of your preparation but more detailed in its content. Personalize your routine as much as you can and remember a more consistent pre-match routine should lead to a more consistent performance.
“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”
Best of luck with your upcoming events.