Have you ever had a match point and all of a sudden you find yourself a match point down?
Welcome to the world of tennis
Fatigue is a major contributor to this situation and can have an influence on our psychological and physical performance during a tennis match. In physical terms, fatigue is defined as a reduced capacity for force development. An example of fatigue occurring is when your brain senses that a body part such as your shoulder, is weak and tired, as a result, it takes over your whole body, you start to think about your body and the pain you are going through, rather than the task at hand. As a consequence, you lose concentration and your performance declines. Studies indicate that a calcium leak in the muscle cell may be a contributing factor, as it weakens the amount of force a particular muscle can exert. Not only does it weaken the muscle, but it activates an enzyme that feeds on protein (our source of muscle) increasing the rate of muscle breakdown.
At the 2012 Australian open, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal competed in a final lasting 5 hours and 53 minutes. The data examined illustrated that both players accumulated a distance greater than 6km in the one match at high intensity, change of direction sprints, and to repeat this within a 48-hour period requires the correct training principles. Through these principles below you can compete for longer and delay the onset of fatigue.
Tennis involves repeated efforts at a high intensity anywhere from 1 to 3 hours and in extreme cases as above, more than 5 hours. It is for this reason that it is important to train the slow twitch muscle fibres to resist fatigue and also the fast twitch muscle fibres to produce explosive power. Slow twitch muscle fibres allow us to work for a longer duration as they are fatigue resistant but unfortunately are slower. Fast twitch fibres fire more rapidly allowing the individual to generate short burst of strength and speed.
Before your game it is beneficial to clear your mind, as this will allow you to focus on the task rather than the result. Without a clear mind, we can block out positive feedback, reinforce negative thoughts and lose concentration on the task, rather than focusing on what you do best. Rafael Nadal for example has a cold shower 45 minutes before his match, this allows him to get into the “zone”, he then listens to music and incorporates an explosive warm up.
Pre-game preparation varies depending on the individual, so it is best to do what works for you, whether it be listening to music, meditating or reading a book.
Not only do we need to be physically and mentally prepared, we also need to have the right fuel in our body to optimally perform for a long period of time. Susan Kleiner, a nutritionist who has worked with elite football players and Olympians recommends having a meal with a moderate amount of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats (polyunsaturated/ monounsaturated) 90 minutes before your match. It is also vital to replenish your body with fluids during the match to prevent dehydration. Along with drinking water at the change of ends, try supplementing in some electrolytes (Gatorade/Powerade) to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat to prevent any cramping.
To prepare for the next match, it is vital to undertake evidence based recovery methods. Two popular methods used in tennis are the cold water immersion method and the compression method. The cold water immersion method involves immersing yourself in cold water such as a bath or the beach, and for the more serious athletes, ice baths are common. This method has many benefits such as reducing swelling and preventing muscle breakdown. The compression method has been found to aid recovery through the effect similar to hydrostatic pressure. Applying external compression to the body reduces blood pooling and swelling, hence facilitating the delivery of nutrients to the damage tissue.
To combat fatigue and improve performance come into Absolute Health & Performance, 199 William st, for an educated approach to training and rehabilitation.
Written by Performance Coach Michael Vellianis
Mcgrogan, E. (2009, August 07). Try these tips to avoid exhaustion in the third set. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.tennis.com/your-game/2009/08/fight-fatigue/17721/#.V3XxGteYLhY