HOW TO WARM-UP FOR A MATCH
by Feisal Hassan, USPTA
Players miss a great opportunity by abusing and misunderstanding the warm-up. They typically just warm up their own shots, period!
The warm-up period should be used to:
• Create your own sense of rhythm and confidence.
• Scout your opponents and create a strategic game plan based on your observations.
The following is a potential template you could follow or could be used as a guideline to develop your own warm-up routine.
• Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the match.
• Place yourself in the proper frame of mind before you leave the house.
• Once you arrive, visualize the upcoming match as you sit in the car. See yourself winning points. See yourself executing properly, choosing the proper target areas. See yourself winning the match.
• Try to arrive at the match site fifteen minutes to a half-hour prior to the starting time. Find a quiet place. Do some light jogging and do some stretching.
During your warm-up:
• Hit slow, soft balls at first.
• The warm-up should be used to gain a feel for the court surface, the speed of your opponent’s shots, etc.
• By hitting balls slowly, it is easier to get used to the conditions. Control all of your shots to one spot (down the middle) in front of your opponent. Do not think you are hitting balls to your opponent. You are aiming the ball to a spot or target on the court. IF YOU CAN’T HIT ONE SPOT IN A WARM-UP, YOU CAN’T HIT ALL SPOTS IN A MATCH!
• Hit the ball at the speed you can totally control (call this your rally speed); then gradually raise the speed to your maximum level.
• As you are gaining your sense of feel, simultaneously warm up your body. Start at the head and work your way down.
• Warm up your eyes. Start focusing on the ball with the 1-2-3-Hit drill. Player calls out numbers and word as follows:
“1” as the opponent hits the ball
“2” as the ball crosses the net when it’s coming toward you
“3” as the ball bounces on your side of the court
Hit” as you strike the ball
This will get your mind and your eyes to track the ball all the way into your racquet.
• Next warm up your arms: start off stroking easily and gradually build. By the
time all this is done; you should be loose.
• Now start moving your feet… a lot. Get that footwork going! Focus on your “Footwork Number”. Footwork Number is defined as the number of times a player’s feet touch the ground between their shots. As players rally, simply count how many times their feet touch the ground between each stroke they hit. Chart below is courtesy from Jorge Capestany, tennisdrills.tv
• By paying attention to your Footwork Number, you will naturally get your feet going and ready for the match.
• By counting your opponent’s Footwork Number, you may get an idea of how they move, and perhaps how advanced they are as a player.
• Use the warm-up to scout and educate yourself about your opponent’s game.
• Does she like high, medium or low balls?
• How does she move? Going forward, going backward, going sideways?
• How much net practice does she take? Does she ask to take overheads or not?
• Hit a lot of balls down the middle of the court and pay attention to what stroke they chose to hit. Many players will naturally step to one side to allow themselves to hit their favorite shot, so take note of whether this is a forehand or backhand.
• Then, in the early stages of the match, continue to make your opponent play all the shots so that you’ve seen her full range of strengths and weaknesses.
• If the opponent is erratic, it will be difficult for you to establish your sense of rhythm and timing. You will have to do this in the first few games. Work into the match. It is frustrating to warm up against someone like this.
By consciously creating a warm-up routine, where you energize your body, sharpen your focus and critically observe your opponent’s strokes, tendencies and movement; you can purposely get mentally and physically prepared to play a great match!