September 9, 2017
Recently Roger Federer shed some light on his foundation for playing great tennis during an interview after his loss to Juan Del Potro in the US Open Quarter Finals this year. Roger said throughout the tournament he didn't feel right with different aspects of what makes his game click. The interview continued with some insight with what he considers the three "pillars" that are fundamental to playing great tennis. Let's dive into each one and see how you are doing with these three pillars.
Pillar #1: Physical Well-Being
The first pillar is probably the most important in a two week tournament. The physicality of pro tennis nowadays is extremely tough on the body and having the ability to play long matches over the course of a two week span is very difficult to do. This also relates to recreational players as we want to perform well during our weekend tournaments, adult league matches, and our every day practice matches.
To do this, your body needs to be able to sustain long periods of interval training where you will play points of high intensity followed by moments of rest. It is also important that injuries do not come about during your matches. The preparation to get your body physically ready for tennis matches seems to be often forgotten. We tend to worry about our forehand rather than our ability to play back-to-back matches or how to sustain high levels of play. Let's look at some important training tips to keep you fit on the court.
Play with correct form: Ensuring that your technique is correct will keep your body from breaking down during matches. This involves using the stronger parts of your body such as your shoulders, stomach and legs rather than your arm. If you are having trouble with this, check out this video that deals with technic to keep you injury free.
Strengthening the right body parts: It is only been a couple years since I started to specifically train for tennis. A lot of my workouts were strenuous but did little for my tennis game. I've learned that my workout should leave me stronger and more capable of playing better tennis rather than just running my body through a strenuous workout. This is why it is important to isolate body parts that will be used for tennis. This includes your stomach, lower back, calves, hip, shoulders and rotator cuffs. Workouts should also focus on balancing the body with the opposite movements you are doing for tennis. For example tennis is a forward motion so doing back exercises can help strengthen the muscles and keep you strong on both sides of the body. Pushups is something to avoid for the most part as this is working the same muscles that your tennis strokes use. Other aspects of your body include your hamstrings and lower back. To summarize, consider your workouts a preparation for the real workout; your tennis match.
Pillar #2: Your Tennis Game
Another pillar of Roger's success is his actual striking of the ball/feel of the ball. It is crucial to have confidence in your ability to compete on the tennis court. What many recreational players fail to do though is prepare for their matches. This leads to matches of great performances and matches of poor performances. The pros do not take that risk as they work on their game during practice to feel confident in their matches. Try to practice one to two times a week where you're focusing on the patterns that you see in your matches. For example if you are in a 3.0 league, you more than likely get weak second serve hit at you so work on hitting returns mostly on your strong side (forehand or backhand). I have my varsity players move over to their stronger side on second serves and a few steps forward so that they have more opportunities to hit the second serve return with their better side in an offensive position. This pillar also relates to how you prepare right before your match. Some people need a long warm up while others need to mentally prepare themselves. Whatever the case is, it is important to have a ritual that is consistent before you step on the court against your opponent.
Pillar #3: Your Mental Game
The mental game is left for last as it is the hardest and most neglected aspect of one's game. Practicing positive energy and attitude is important because it is so hard to do that when you're not playing well or in a tight match. Consider practicing your attitude during matches more often so that you are more prepared to be 100% focused during your matches. For example, consider preparing yourself mentally before your match with all your misses. There are too many players that have a negative response to their misses, making it almost impossible to stay focused and play good tennis. Knowing you will not be perfect on the court but also envisioning you overcoming these mistakes will make you in the right state of mind for your match.
Although Roger Federer's 3 pillars work for him, maybe yours will be a bit different. Consider reflecting on this and find out what are the aspects of your life that will make the most impact to your game. By looking a bit deeper into this you may find some areas to focus more on to get you in your peak state to compete at your highest level!