This is a guest post by our sponsor Millet Sports.
Power and speed are essential aspects of any good tennis player’s game, just as stamina and fitness, which can often be overlooked. We all remember the 2011 Australian Open fourth round, when Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova played the longest women’s Grand Slam match in the open era. The match lasted four hours and four minutes and there were 47 sets before Schiavone finally won 6–4 1–6 16–14. It’s an extreme example of how much stamina and fitness are involved in tennis. Without it, speed, power and dexterity all suffer.
Anyone that runs or has played sport for at least ten minutes has experienced the build-up of lactic acid in their muscles. This lactic acid is a by-product of anaerobic respiration, which serves as a sort of extra energy source. This occurs when breathing alone isn’t supplying you with enough energy. The lactic acid causes the muscles to get heavy and slow, and the pain builds until you are forced to stop exercising. This slowing down is a safety mechanism that prevents us being overcome with lactic acid. However, giving in to the effects of lactic acid during a tennis match is tantamount to failure. So, the faster a player can rid themselves of lactic acid, the faster they can get back to their A game.
The only way to reduce the build-up of lactic acid is to supply your muscles with enough oxygen to convert it back into pyruvate (the original, natural chemical in your muscles). But this means stopping and breathing as much as possible… This is where fitness comes into play. The fitter you are the faster and more efficiently your cardiovascular system works, this allows you to get more oxygen to your muscles, converting the lactic acid back in pyruvate. Stamina, on the other hand, is how long you can go without stopping. It extends your lactate threshold, keeping you faster for longer.
There are no quick fixes to attaining higher stamina and fitness, however, there are sure-fire ways to improve them over time:
FITNESS: instead of circuit training—mixing fast and slow exercise—practice and train at a medium-to-slow place for as long as possible. Don’t burn yourself out. Fitness is increased by keeping your heart rate elevated for as long as possible.
STAMINA: medium-to-fast-paced exercise for as long as possible. The more you push yourself and regularly engage in stamina training, the more you stretch your lactic acid threshold. This pushes your body out of its comfort zone and is less enjoyable than fitness training, but the results will improve your game tremendously.
Working on your fitness and stamina keeps you fast and the same goes for staying hydrated and preventing your body from overheating. Other than drinking water, the best way to stay cool and hydrated is to ensure that you’re training/playing in clothing that allows your skin to breathe and cool down as easily as possible. Millet Sports has a big variety of fitness clothing that is ideal for keeping your body cool. Many of the modern fabrics pull any sweat from your skin into the outside of your clothing, allowing it to evaporate more easily. Evaporation draws heat from your skin and cools you down. There’s no point in having all of the fitness and stamina in the world if you start suffering from heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Get fit, improve your stamina and stay cool and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with on the tennis court. You might not need to play a 47-set match, but it always helps to be prepared.