Our weekly Tennis Colum: Competition training strategies for tennis – Part 1
At the outset of this article, it must be mentioned that this is aimed more at the senior players and the coaches.
That is not to say that the junior players cannot benefit from the strategies mentioned below. But since this article will be discussing certain advanced theories in relation to competition training strategies, the players will need to have certain background knowledge of the strategies to understand the theories discussed below.
But interested players are certainly encouraged to do their own research and to understand what is discussed. If that happens, it will certainly show an interest on the part of the player for self improvement.
Preparing for competition
The whole idea behind any player taking part in any sport seriously is to make sure that they take part in competitions. And if any player is going to take part in any competition, the preparation for that competition becomes vitally necessary.
Of course, various players will have their own individual ideas as to how they need to prepare for their competitions. Whilst having their own individual characteristics, it is important to make sure that they adopt the basics so that their preparation for the competition is scientific. This scientific approach will help the players in case they feel that they need to adjust their preparation at a later date.
Whilst there are various strategies as well as actions that the top players adopt for their competition strategy, we will discuss below three strategies that those top players adopt in their preparation to maximise their preparation.
No substitution for other activities
It should be noted that these strategies are not in substitution for all the other activities such as physical and tennis training or nutrition and mental preparation, but that these are broad strategies which can be used by the players to make sure that they achieve the maximum.
This will help them to achieve better results from all of the above aspects of the tennis training which any player will be doing in their preparation for any competition.
The three strategies proposed to be discussed below are:
(ii) Combat detraining, and
(iii) Warming up to potentiate
The following discussion might be technical and theoretical but on the other hand, if enforced correctly, it will lead to better performances.
What is tapering in tennis? Tapering has been defined as “a period of training load reduction intended to decrease fatigue and optimise physiological and psychological adaptations before a competition.”
This is an important strategy, especially in terms of the coaching methods adopted by most Sri Lankan coaches.
Our coaches tend to play as much tennis as possible just before the competition in the mistaken assumption that it will help the players. But in a research done on this particular subject (Vachon et al 2020) suggests that a 41-60% decrease in training volume is best for sports like running, cycling, and swimming.
While it’s unclear how much is best for team + individual sport athletes such as tennis players, somewhere in the same range is likely appropriate.
Therefore, essentially, what the coaches need to do is that instead of increasing the workload of the players, they should gradually decrease the workload of them. For example, if there has been planning for a particular tournament for six weeks, perhaps for the first four weeks of the training, a coach can work on a micro cycle and then the coach can gradually start tapering off the training for the last two (2) weeks before the tournament.
This does not mean that the player should totally “not train” for those two weeks, but that the player trains less in view of the upcoming tournaments.
It has been found that this particular strategy in training has a number of benefits accruing to the players. Some of those benefits could be listed as follows:
(a) The body gets much needed rest. Therefore it is able to adapt to the training stress from previous weeks. It will give the body that much-needed time to rejuvenate for the upcoming competition
(b) Players feel fresh, not just physically but mentally too. This is perhaps even more important than physical freshness as in a close match, this might well be the difference between winning and losing, and
(c) If we continue increasing intensity, we begin approaching match-like conditions. And match intensities always outweigh practice intensities. Therefore, after some time automatically, when the intensity starts decreasing due to fatigue, the player will approach the match with less intensity. What should really happen is that the player needs to approach the match with more intensity than the practice sessions
Whilst the above strategy might not be what the coaches and the players instinctively feel works for them, these are the strategies that the top players in the world are using when it comes to important matches.
That in itself should be a clue to our players that the above strategy really does work more often than not.
This is only one of the above-mentioned three strategies in terms of getting ready for a competition in tennis.
The other two strategies will be discussed next week in this column.
No coach or player needs to blindly believe or adopt any strategy. But on the other hand, it should not be discarded just because it is different to what they have been doing earlier either.
That openness to learn and try out new strategies will be the key to our players reaching higher levels and competing in higher strata in the future.