How to warm up for tennis

Before I begin this post, I should point out that I’m not a person who likes to stretch before practice. In the past, I’d often skip this altogether or would only do the minimal amount. Even if I was going out to play a match.

As you might expect, this would often lead to me feeling sore the next day. My typical tennis day was 2-4 hours on court, at a time.

As my game developed, I came to understand just how important stretching was. In my late teens, I adapted to a more defensive playing style. Not stretching beforehand would lead to my knees aching afterwards.

Overtime, I’ve made quite a few adjustments to my game and I now have a routine which seems to work fairly well.

Today, I’d like to share a few of the most important ones with you.

1. Birddog

This is a great back strengthening exercise that can also be used during your warm up. The birddog targets your lower back, thigh, hip, and glute. It also has the added benefit of improving your balance.

To perform this exercise, you need to start off in a kneeling plank. Keeping your toes on the ground. Gradually, you’re going to lift one leg and the arm opposite from it until both are fully extended.

Here’s a picture of how this should look:

Birddog plank

With the arm and leg both fully extended, you’re going to hold this position for several seconds before gradually lowering them and repeating the process with your opposite side. It is possible to do this exercise with the same side arm and leg, however this requires a great deal of balance and fairly decent form. I don’t recommend doing same-side bird dogs, if you’re just starting out.

2. Front Shoulder Raise (with a resistance band)

This is a phenomenal exercise for your shoulder. If you don’t have a resistance tube, please consider getting one as it will greatly assist you with your warm-up and keeping your shoulder injury-free.

Step onto the tube with either one or both of your feet and raise the band until the handles are roughly at your eye level. Hold this position for a moment before gradually lowering your arms back down to your sides. You can perform this exercise in 3 sets of 10 or even 15 if you’re feeling up to it. 🙂

 

3. Ankle Rockers:

At the end of 2013, my ankles were killing me. By not warming-up this vitally important tendon, before practice, I had created an unnecessary problem for myself. I couldn’t move to the ball without feeling stiffness or even soreness.

Knowing that I had to get this resolved, I started performing ankle rockers on a near daily basis. Combing this with a few weeks off from the tennis courts allowed me to recover from my injury.

As of April 2015, I haven’t had to deal with it since! 🙂

 

4. Adductor Stretches:

If you’ve ever played a long tennis match then you know how important this muscle group is. The adductors and hips are essential to your lower body’s flexibility. Make sure you take the time to perform this exercise.

Start off by kneeling on the ground in a plank position. Extend your right leg out laterally, as far as it can go. You then want to gently lean backwards until the back of your heel is nearly touching your glute. Hold this for several seconds before returning to your original position. Repeat 5-10 times before switching to the opposite leg.

5. Hip Flexor Stretch

This is an often overlooked exercise that, if performed correctly, can seriously enhance your range of motion. One major benefit is that it allows you to work a lot of different areas at the same time. Your glutes, hamstring, hip, lower-back, knees, and even balance, will all be improved by doing this routinely.

To perform the hip flexor stretch. Start by kneeling on one leg while stretching the other one out in front of you at a 90 degree angle. You want to make sure that your leg is out far enough so that when you rock forward the knee isn’t extending well over the front toe.

Gently move forward until you feel a gradual stretch in your hip. Hold this position for a few seconds before moving back. Repeat this several times before switching legs.

One last thing I want to point out is that it’s extremely important to stay erect during this exercise. If you’re having a difficult time doing this try squeezing your glutes before you move into the stretch.

All right guys, I hope you found these stretches to be helpful. Leave me a comment below with what you’d like to see next! I want to bring you the best tennis knowledge possible and I’ve got a whole lot planned for 2015.

Stay tuned! 😀

 

 

Tennis Corrective Strength Training Exercises: Kettle bell swings

kettlebells

The kettlebell swing is one of the best exercises to perform during the off season. It’s one of my personal favorites as it works the glutes, hamstrings, and a bit of your lower back. I usually do this one about 3-4 times per week in sets of 5.

If you’re a player, who suffers from lower back pain this exercise can help to correct it. Just be careful of how much you lift.

Here’s how it works. You want to start off with a kettlebell or dumbbell that fits into your ideal strength weight. I recommend starting at about 8-10 pounds if you haven’t been doing much off-court training.

The motion:

You want your feet to be in a wide base, further than shoulder width apart. Take the weight and hold it low between your legs. You can initiate the movement by swinging the weight through your legs and squeezing your glutes. As the weight starts to drop use your hips to thrust the weight up to your chest level. Briefly hold the weight in place before allowing it to swing between your legs and repeating the process again.

You can perform as many sets as you want but I’d recommend doing at least 3 sets of 15 reps per training interval.

On a side note, I’m going to begin recording myself performing these exercises along with my on-court training and practice sessions.

I’ve got a lot of content that I plan to release for 2015 and I can hardly wait to get started.

Hope you guys are having a great new year. I’ll be back in a couple days with my Australian Open predictions.

Australian Open Finals: Dreams do come true!

How does this happen?! First time in the finals. 0-12 record against his opponent. Not even a set won in previous matches. And it’s Stanislas Wawrinka, who wins the title.

Of course, we’re not talking about just any title. It’s the Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal. One of the greatest players in the history of the game. Granted, Nadal had been experiencing some physical issues. Griggor Dimitrov came within a point of a two sets to one lead. So it could be argued that Nadal was fortunate to be there.

Even still, he had it all over Stan. Statistically, he had this guy beat in just about every department. But the will to win. The thing that Nadal has been known for, wasn’t with him. It was with Stan.

Stan’s A plan worked great for about two sets. He faced some tough moments with his nerves, but was able to finish the match in four.

The stars aligned perfectly for Wawrinka, during the Australian Open fortnight. He made it through to the quarter-finals with no sets lost. He was totally fresh. Even sporting a walk-over against Pospisil. Then he ran into Novak Djokovic. Big time trouble. But survived the encounter in a five set fight.

In the semi-finals, he faced Berdych. A very dangerous opponent with massive ground strokes. Stan took care of him in four. Setting up a showdown with Rafael Nadal. A player that he’d never beaten before. And even that wasn’t enough to deny him the trophy.

Congratulations Stan. You earned it!

rafael-nadal-australian-open-final-71Quinn Rooney/Getty Images AsiaPac

At 28 years old, Stan is having the breakthrough of his career. He admitted before the final, that he never expected to to be there.

Let’s take a look back at the match. Recapping on what it took for him to win his first grand slam tournament.

Set 1

5197606-3x2-940x627Stan comes out with the better energy by far. He looks focused and sharp.

Nadal is completely the opposite. He’s sluggish and frequently misfires with his forehand. Stan gets the early advantage and holds off any signs of nerves.

It’s 5-3 with Wawrinka serving for the set. The wheels come off and he drops three straight points. Love-40 opening for Nadal. Looks like he’ll be back on serve in a moment.

But then Nadal chokes. Stan misses three first serves and yet Nadal can’t get the ball in the court. He misses five straight returns and surrenders the first set to Wawrinka.

It’s 1-0 to Stan the man.

Set 2

rafael-nadal-injury-timeout-640The second set, starts out with an epic rally. After twenty-one strokes, Stan smacks an inside out forehand winner. Which leaves Nadal looking a little more than concerned.

Over the course of a match, these are not the points you’d expect him to lose.

Stan plays a flawless game to break. Then holds easily for a 2-0 lead.

Midway through the next service game, Nadal dumps a forehand into the net. He bends over wincing, hands on his hips. It’s not clear what’s bothering him but it’s apparent that something is seriously wrong. He wins the game and immediately leaves the court with the trainer for a medical time-out.

An argument ensues between Stan and the chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Stan demands to know why his opponent has left the court and Ramos refuses to tell him. He informs Stan that he isn’t required to give him that information.

When Nadal finally returns to the court, he is met with boos from the crowd. The match resumes and Wawrinka, easily serves out to a 3-1 lead.

We see that the treatment hasn’t helped Nadal very much. He has great difficulty bending. Costing him power and speed on his serve. Stan breaks, holds, and then serves out the set 6-2.

At two sets to love down and a locked up back. The chances of a comeback seems impossible. Even for Nadal.

Set 3

nadal2_CroppedEarly in the third set, Nadal starts to move better. He rediscovers the timing on his forehand.

Meanwhile, Stan is feeling the pressure. He’s now expected to win the match and it’s not sitting well with him. Panicking, he goes into self destruct mode. Giving Nadal, freebies here and there. Especially on the return of serve.

Nadal might not be moving well. But with his forehand firing and Stan botching most returns, it’s enough for him to take the set 6-3.

It’s 2-1 Wawrinka but the tables have turned. We just saw an injured Nadal, with severely limited movement, take the set. Could there still be a chance for him to win?

Set 4

Stan last pictureStan continues to struggle with his nerves. He’s holding his own serve but can’t play a decent return game. Spraying errors and misfiring on returns. Nadal doesn’t have to do much more than get the ball in play.

But that all changes at 2-all. Stan gets his act together and plays a smart return game. Aiming for safe targets. Which forces the hobbled Nadal, to scurry around the court after them. Easy break.

Stan’s up 4-2 now but his confidence abandons him. He dumps serve to love and Nadal is back in the set.

Frustrated, Stan goes back to basics. Moving Nadal around the court, keeping the ball in play, and simply playing smart tennis. He breaks him again and bangs his fist into his temple. Indicating that he’s got his thinking cap on and is ready to serve out the match. He does so in textbook fashion. Giving him his first Australian Open title and victory over Nadal. Couldn’t come at a better time, eh?

Nadal is gracious during the post match interview. Refraining from tears despite losing a title which he wanted, so badly. Stan, just looks happy (and surprised) to be holding the winner’s trophy. He congratulates Rafael and his team on a successful run to the finals and with a smile, says that he’ll be returning home soon to his wife and daughter.

This will probably be the biggest moment of Stan’s career. He’s closing in on 30 and there’s really no way of knowing whether this is the pinnacle or if there might be another slam for him on the horizon.

Putting all that aside however, this is a pretty interesting turn of events.

Stan is the first player to have cracked through the big four since Juan Martin Del Potro.

I’m not sure if this a sign of things to come or just a fluke. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how Nadal fares at Roland Garros. It’s a title that he’s only lost once in his career. But Djokovic, has proven that he’s vulnerable on clay.

There’s only a few players capable of doing it. But with the right set of circumstances, we could see a new French Open champion.

I probably shouldn’t get too far carried away. Nadal is still my pick to win the French Open. And I sincerely hope that he does.

Undeniably, this match will change Stan’s legacy as a tennis player. He’s now a champion.

Before I end this article, I want to ask you a question. Do you think Stan will win another major or is this just a one time thing?

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Alex

Federer parts ways with Annacone

A few weeks ago, Roger Federer, announced that he was splitting with Paul Annacone. His coach since 2010.

Roger+Federer+Paul+Annacone+Olympics+Previews+TkGsWMIq2YOlNow, you might think this would be due to Federer’s drop in the ranking or lack of strong performances in 2013. But Federer and Annacone both say that their partnership had run it’s course.

When they first joined forces. Federer, outlined a plan with Annacone, to get back the number one ranking and win another slam. Having achieved both of these goals. It was mutually decided, that they were ready to move on.

Personally, I think it’s for the best. It sounds like things may have stagnated between them.

Besides, Federer is going to need to make changes to his game. I don’t believe he’ll have to reinvent himself to get back into the top group but he needs to improve in a few areas. The return of serve (especially off the backhand side) and his running forehand.

His slice backhand is great. We all know that. It’s a consistent shot, which he uses offensively.

A good choice for opponents, who feed off pace.

Unfortunately, he has the tendency to float the ball back to the middle of the court. He does so, daring his opponent to go to his forehand. But this let’s them start off their service rally in the attacking position. Forcing Federer, to play defense.

Also, his opponents know that he’s going to float the ball back. They know the likelihood of getting hurt off his backhand is significantly less.

So it only makes sense for them to starve his forehand as much as possible.

That’s why I think he needs to come over the ball more often and hit deep with some pace. At least, force them to run to get the ball back.

He doesn’t need to get away from slicing the backhand completely. He just needs more variety. Make his opponents, respect that side more.

As for his running forehand. I feel this is more of a weapon that he’s going to need to use. He hits the inside out forehand beautifully. Better than almost any other player that I’ve seen. That’s his bread and butter.

His running forehand is good too. But he needs to improve this shot to keep up with the younger players. Fed, doesn’t hit with as much spin as Djokovic, Nadal, or Murray. He’s older and it’s unrealistic to expect him to have the same defensive skills that he had in his mid-20s.

But without a great defensive to offensive shot, it’s just about impossible to win. Murray, Djokovic, Nadal, and others cover the court far too well to be hit off routinely. With a great running forehand in his arsenal, Federer, would be that much more dangerous. Especially in the extended rallies, where he gets dragged wide and needs to finish the point.

Lastly. Roger, should hit more short angled returns. He’s great on this shot and it works well against the incredibly defensive Murray, Djokovic, Ferrer, and Nadal. Dragging them off the court and leaving an opening for a Federer winner.

Well, that wraps up my assessment for now. Please leave me a comment, if you agree or think I’m crazy.

Til next time.

Rafael Nadal returns to #1

I remember watching the Wimbledon 2011 final, when it aired a little over two years ago. This was the match where the #1 ranking officially changed hands between Nadal and Djokovic (for the first time anyway.)

While technically Novak, had already secured the top rank by reaching the finals. It felt somewhat debatable as to who the better player really was.

Up until then, Djokovic had never beaten Nadal in a slam. He had an impressive win streak going into that match. Which included four straight wins over Rafa Nadal. But even with his triumph at the Australian Open, it was Nadal, who had claimed four of the past five majors. If Novak, wanted to be accepted as the new number one, he was going to have to beat Nadal on a much bigger stage.

Wimbledon-mens-final-2011-007Most people didn’t expect him to win. Grass, had never been the Serb’s best surface. And there was the longstanding argument that he couldn’t beat Nadal in a five set match. Rafa, seemed like the clear favorite for another Wimbledon trophy.

But the match told a much different story. Djokovic, came out the better player by far. Dominating the first two sets. Before his enraged rival, struck back to take the third 6-1. With the threat of a fifth set looming, Nole wasted no time in getting the momentum turned around in his favor. He won the fourth set convincingly and kicked off his run at the top with a bang.

novak-djokovic-WIMBLEDON-2011-rafael-nadal-06                                  This was the beginning of the Djokovic era.

As of October 7th, 2013, that era has ended (or at least is on hiatus, for now.) Nadal, has come back from a seven match losing streak to Novak. A seven month lay off from the game. A momentum halting loss to Steve Darcis, in the first round of Wimbledon. What more can I say? This man is the king of comebacks.

There was a time in early 2012, when I seriously questioned his likelihood of ever defeating Novak Djokovic, again. Looking back on the 2013 season, I’m really just in awe by what he’s accomplished. He skipped the Australian Open and lost first round at Wimbledon, yet he’s still the number one player.

In February, he simply said that he wanted to have a healthy start to the year, play a few tournaments, and see how his body reacted. With these expectations being so heavily surpassed. It will be interesting to see what goals he sets for next year.

Along with Djokovic. He won’t let Nadal stay on top of him for too long. I expect this drop in the ranking will only motivate him to do better. Novak is a fighter. It may take some time but he’s going to find an answer to Nadal.

I’m looking forward to seeing some great matches between them in 2014 and maybe at the World Tour finals.

Rafa celebrate                                           Vamos Rafa! You deserve it.🙂

2012 Wimbledon finals

Hey everyone, sorry for the extended delay of this post. My busy schedule sometimes keeps me away from my blog. But I’m back to talk about the Wimbledon final between Federer and Murray. Federer and Murray? Yeah, what an odd combination. For the last four slams it’s been Djokovic/Nadal but finally we have some new faces. Well maybe not new but atleast different. 

The match was very good. The kind of high quality you’d expect from a Wimbledon final. Andy Murray, has long been pursuing his first grand slam title. Just like Agassi was, twenty years earlier. The ironic thing is that both Andy and Andre had lost there previous slam finals before making the breakthrough at Wimbledon. Both were considered to be the underdog and neither player was considered a likely candidate to win this tournament. Andre, won his final against Goran Ivanisevic. Would history repeat itself for Murray? 

As the match unfolded Murray found himself quickly in control. He broke Roger at the start of the match, then a tug of war ensued between them. They exchanged breaks of serve but ultimately Murray closed out the first set 6-4. 

In set two, Murray had real opportunities to get a stranglehold but seemingly floundered his chances. He was making inroads on Roger’s serve and it looked like he might be able to take the second set in a tie-break. A few lucky points from Roger gave him the second set 7-5.

Set three went to Federer after an incredible battle at 3-2. Murray, threw everything he had at the Swiss but it wasn’t enough. After losing this game and conceding the break the momentum of the match was clearly with Federer. He blew through the third set with very few mistakes. Roger won the third set 6-3.

In the fourth set Roger, got an opportunity early on and pounced on it. From then on it was a forgone conclusion. Murray, had too much hill to climb, though he never stopped trying. Roger served out the match at 5-4 to win his seventh Wimbledon and seventeenth slam overall. 

After giving an emotional post match interview Andy Murray was cheered on by his home crowd. Roger, praised Murray’s performance, saying he was certain Murray would win a slam at some point in his career.

I agree with Roger. Murray, played great. It wasn’t like in the other slams where he stormed in playing brilliant tennis and then seemed to whither up and die in the finals. Murray, competed hard from start to finish. Were he able to win the second set, I think he would taken the match from Roger. In the future he will remain a viable contender to win slams. I believe he’s going to have a lot more opportunties.

Federer, winning his seventeenth slam at Wimbledon, just staggers me. No one has ever come close to that kind of number, I mean Pistol only had fourteen. Roger, is now in a class by himself. How many more. can he get? Could he reach twenty? At 30 years old I don’t think it’s likely but with a couple more Wimbledons and the US Open Federer could end up with twenty slams. Or more. Scary isn’t it?

Thanks to the win, Roger is ranked on top again and has broken Pete’s record of most weeks at number one. (Poor Pete, his records are just getting trashed this month.) I admit, that’s a record I didn’t think he’d be able to pull off when he lost the top rank to Nadal two years ago. I and a lot of others thought that Fed’s days at number one were over. Turns out we were wrong, Fed surprised all of us and now he’s number one again. 

With the US Open series starting next month, the players will be returning to the States to duel it out across North America. Expect the number one ranking to be up for grabs in the weeks to come.