• Fri. Dec 8th, 2023

Fitness: How fit are the world’s best tennis players?

Fitness: How fit are the world’s best tennis players?

The Netflix series Break Point showcases the behind-the-scenes aspects of some of the world’s greatest tennis players. As you follow from tournament to tournament, you will experience the emotional highs and lows of a grueling Grand Slam season. But what about the physical demands of tennis? What kind of physical assets do elite tennis players need to win a Grand Slam?

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To play a high-level game of tennis, you need speed, agility, and strength, as well as a strong aerobic base that requires short bursts of high intensity and the endurance needed to sustain an occasional marathon match of more than three hours. As with many sports, it’s not enough to excel in one or two of these skills – the best have them all.

The challenge is that professional tennis is played on different surfaces like hardcourt, clay and grass. Each of these surfaces changes the way the ball reacts when it hits the ground and the way players approach the game. The difference between the courts may seem small, but it’s enough to create a ranking among players on what type of court they excel at: Rafael Nadal on clay, Roger Federer on grass, and Novak Djokovic on hardcourt.

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Leila Fernandez of Montreal serves a backhand during her first round match against Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic on day one of the 2023 ASB Classic Women’s at the ASB Tennis Arena on January 2, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Hannah Peters /Getty Images

As for typical body composition, looking at players on tour suggests that elite tennis players come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime has a 6’4” frame and No. 1 ranked Carlo Alcaraz has a six-foot-tall frame. The same is true of the women’s game, where you’ll see the powerful builds of 5’9″ recently retired Serena Williams and 5’7″ Bianca Andreescu, 5’6″ Leila Fernandez or top-ranked 5′ 9″ Iga Svitek.

Most tennis enthusiasts understand some of the physiology behind match play, but with wearable sensors, information on the length of a rally, number of changes of direction, and distance traveled in a match can be calculated by gender and playing surface. The idea is not to compare your game to Auger-Aliassime’s or Andreescu’s, but to watch and play the game with a greater knowledge of the fitness and physicality of a game that tennis demands.

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While the average tennis match lasts less than 90 minutes (89.7 minutes for men and 88 minutes for women), hardcourt matches last about nine minutes longer than those played on grass or clay. But there are many longer games, and three- and four-hour marathon sessions are a semi-regular occurrence. But not playing at high intensity all the time on the court.

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A match alternates between short periods of high-intensity play, followed by a brief recovery at the end of each point with a mandatory rest period between sets. With games featuring anywhere from one minute of work to two minutes of rest (1:2) to 1, the statistics show that there isn’t much of a difference in work-to-rest ratio between male and female players: 4.5 – like a forward in hockey. On clay, the work-to-rest ratio is one minute of intense play followed by two minutes of rest.

The average rally on the men’s tour lasts 5.5 seconds and ends in about four strokes of the racket. Rallies on clay last the longest (7.1 seconds) and on grass the shortest (4.3 seconds). The women held a second advantage in play longer than their male counterparts, taking less than four strokes to end the rally. Men cover more than two kilometers (2,292 meters per match, 607 meters per set, 9.6 meters per point) in a five-set match, while women cover 1.2 kilometers (1,249 meters per match, 574 meters per set, 8.2 meters per point) in their best three-set matches. .

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Men change direction about 2.5 times per rally, with a maximum speed of 19.8 km/h, an average of 182 km/h on their first serve, and 149 km/h on their second serve. Ground strokes during a rally are 111 kmph.

Women change direction 2.3 times per rally, and data on their top speed is not available. She reaches speeds of 156 kmph on the first serve and 134 kmph on the second serve and ground strokes of 106 kmph.

What do all these numbers mean to the average tennis fan? If you play, your training should mimic the physical demands of match play, including intervals with a similar work-to-rest ratio and lots of drills that increase speed and change direction and speed frequently. If you’re more of an armchair enthusiast than a player, Grand Slam season offers plenty of opportunities to watch the game with a fresh perspective.

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