It’s Not All About The Ball
It’s the time of year again when some of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world are happening. In October 2021, the stars of the court from both the men and the women’s sides are stepping up to the net at the Indian Wells Masters 1000. What does it take to compete at this level? How do elite athletes like Leylah Fernandez train for tennis at Indian Wells Masters 2021? The answer to that is simple, yet cryptic: it’s not all about the ball.
How Do Athletes Train For Tennis Tournaments?
This tournament is just one in a tour of elite events. The reason they’re so elite is because the players are the best of the best. And for good reason: their training is intense. 19-year-old Canadian tennis player Leylah Fernandez is the shining star of the WTA in 2021 She’s already achieved fame as a surprise power player in this year’s US Open. Fans all over the world are cheering her on as she moves on to Indian Wells.
Fernandez’s success was not easily won, however. You don’t just become one of the youngest tennis players to ever make it to the US Open finals through sheer dumb luck. She possesses incredible skills that she worked hard to hone. Let’s take a peek at some of her training regimen. In this video she posted to her Instagram, she shows one of her routines at the Indian Wells court. But she’s not on the court – she’s in the stands. First, she jumps up onto the bench in front of her with both feet. Then, while swinging her tennis racket, she takes a wide step and turns her body to the side, then takes a
second shorter step and turns herself back to face the next bench. Then she repeats the entire exercise. In another video, she shows how she uses a special balancing exercise to stabilize her stance. With this exercise, she trains herself to remain steady and balanced when she’s out on the court.
There are other exercises that are good for tennis players to perform that don’t even involve a racket. They are designed to increase flexibility and strengthen leg, core, and arm muscles. Lunges, stretches, ball tosses – things that you might do in your daily gym or pilates routine, also help tennis players get ready for their tournaments.
Tennis Is Not Just A Physical Sport –
It’s Mental, too! When you’re a tennis player, you shouldn’t focus solely on your physical performance. Because in the end, whether you win or lose may depend on whether or not you can get out of your own head. For someone like Leylah Fernandez, the pressure to play well is now more intense than ever. She’s performed beautifully in the 2021 WTA tour so far, and now there is an expectation built up around her. She and her team have tried to minimize those expectations, however. The reason for that is so that she can continue to play at her best without succumbing to the immense pressure. Going into Indian Wells, tennis practice is still tennis practice. It’s just another day, another game.
Other players are not as well prepared as Fernandez. Men’s tennis star Novak Djokovic announced just days ago that he will not be attending Indian Wells. He gave no reason, and no injuries or personal emergencies have been reported. It could be that he is not in the right headspace, which often happens to high-profile athletes (e.g. gymnast Simone Biles in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics).
Mental health has been a hot topic of conversation in the tennis world in the past year. It was brought back out into the open when Naomi Osaka – a Grand Slam champion who famously beat Serena Williams in the Australian Open of 2018 – withdrew from the French Open as well as Wimbledon earlier in 2021. She was fined for skipping a press conference at the French Open, which was a contributing factor for her withdrawal. In an Instagram post, Osaka revealed that she has been fighting against depression and anxiety since her huge win against Williams, for which she received a lot of boos from Williams’s passionate fans. Clearly the world of tennis is not just about the ball. It requires extreme mental resilience.
Tennis Takes Focus
Above everything else, playing tennis takes focus. It takes focus on your physical training, on exercises on and off the court. It also takes focus on your mental wellbeing, and on blocking out all the negative voices coming from the outside – but also coming from the inside. So when players step up to the Indian Wells court, you know that they have prepared both their bodies and their minds for this game. It is everything they’ve trained for, and they won’t stop until they’re beaten by a player with better focus.