All Posts by Mehrban

TFP 063: Stringing Machine Tips and Tricks with Mark Gonzalez From Alpha Racquet Sports

TFP 063: Stringing Machine Tips and Tricks with Mark Gonzalez From Alpha Racquet Sports

On today’s episode of The Tennis Files Podcast, I spoke with Mark Gonzalez from Alpha Racquet Sports about stringing machines. I asked Mark about the different types of stringing machines, how to choose the right one for you, and tips and tricks to become a great stringer.  The International Alliance of Racquet Stringers (IART) has said that Mark’s knowledge of stringing machines ranks among the very best in the industry.

Mark wears many hats in the tennis world; he is a Sales Manager for Alpha Racquet Sports, an industry consultant for IART, and a Yonex rep.  Mark has a reputation for being super responsive and has helped me figure out my stringing machine needs. When I did research on best value stringing machines, Alpha was the brand that popped up more often than all the others in the forums and everywhere else, which is why I decided to bring Mark on the podcast.

It was a pleasure having Mark on The Tennis Files Podcast, and I know this episode will help you choose the right stringing machine for your game and become a better stringer.  You’ll also save a lot of cash if you get a tennis machine which you can use to play more tennis, upgrade your racquets, and enjoy happy hour after your league matches (if you are of-age, anyway! 🙂 )

I hope you enjoy this episode of TFP with Mark, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

Intro

  • [4:02] The biggest advantage of owning a stringing machine
  • [5:32] The biggest hesitation that players have when deciding whether to buy a stringing machine
  • [7:20] What sparked Mark’s interest into the world of stringing machines
  • [9:46] The stringing machines Mark has used throughout his tennis and stringing career?

Researching Stringing Machines

  • [11:47] The optimal approach to buying a machine
  • [14:30] When buying a stringing machine, do we plan for the short term or long term? i.e. space in apartment, stringing skill level, potential to string for others, etc.
  • [15:47] What are the biggest mistakes people make when buying a stringing machine?

Different Types of Stringing Machines

  • [17:31] What are the different types of stringing machines?
  • [20:42] The kind of machine Mark recommends for a player’s first machine, that plays 2-3 times a week and breaks strings once every 2-3 weeks?
  • [21:55] The drop weight machine is the cheapest kind generally – why is that?
  • [23:53] Who would you suggest a drop weight machine for?
  • [25:06] Why drop weights can be one of the most accurate types of stringing machines despite the price
  • [25:47] Is an electric machine worth it, and if so, what type of players would you suggest get one?
  • [27:58] 2 point vs 6 point machines – what does this mean, and does it matter?

Stringing Accessories

  • [29:38] The most helpful stringing tools for stringing racquets
  • [32:29] What part of the stringing machine tends to break the fastest and what to do about it
  • [34:55] What is the WISE electronic tensioner head and what type of benefit would we gain from getting one? Is it worth it?

Stringing Racquets at this year’s Australian Open

  • [37:33] Mark’s experience stringing at the Australian Open and the ATP/WTA players he strung racquets for

Stringing Technique

  • [40:19] The biggest mistakes novice and intermediate stringers make
  • [41:40] The best way to measure how much string you need to string your racquet and the “4-Wingspan Rule”

Alpha Stringing Machines

  • [42:57] The awesome stringing machines Alpha has in its lineup and a cool story about customer service
  • [49:46] Are there any new machines planned for Alpha in the near future, and how we can get an Alpha stringing machine if we are interested in one?

Final Thoughts

  • [51:46] Mark’s key tip to help you choose the right stringing machine

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Alpha Racquet Sports Website

Alpha Axis Pro – Awesome Crank Machine with Stand and My Top Pick

Alpha Revo 4000 – Excellent Portable Tabletop Crank Machine

Tennis Files Youtube Channel – Subscribe!  You know you want to 😉

If you enjoyed my interview with Mark, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

For more tips on how to improve your game, subscribe to my newsletter and download a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success below! Thanks for listening!

TFP 062: 7 Serve Killers and How to Fix Them

TFP 062: 7 Serve Killers and How to Fix Them

On today’s episode, I review the 7 biggest serve killers and how to fix them.  Over several decades of playing the game, observing other players, learning from my coaches, and the hundreds of interviews on my podcast, Tennis Summits, and Youtube channel, I’ve come to identify several huge leaks in tennis players’ serves.  And today I’m speaking with you one on one about them.

I’ve personally struggled (and still sometimes do) with several of these leaks, and I hope that you find this episode as useful as I do in identifying and finding ways to fix your biggest serve killers.  It’s certainly not an easy process, but if you work diligently and consistently at your serve killers, you will come out a much more powerful and consistent server.

I hope you enjoy this episode on the 7 Serve Killers and How to Fix Them!  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

7 Serve Killers (and How to Fix Them) I Discuss on the Show:

  1. Serve Grip
  2. Toss
  3. Hitch in Motion
  4. Shallow Racquet Drop
  5. Weight Distribution
  6. Opening Up Early
  7. Eyes Not Watching the Ball

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Tennis Summit 2018

Tennis Technique Summit

TFP057 – Top 10 Things That Improved My Game in 2017

TFP 022: Taking Your Game to the Next Level with ATP Pro Junior Ore

TFP 012: How the Universal Tennis Rating System is Revolutionizing Tennis with Dave Fish, Harvard Men’s Tennis Coach

If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

As always, thanks for reading, and keep improving your tennis game!

P.S. If you’d like to receive periodic emails with my best tips to improve your tennis game, and a free eBook, subscribe below! 🙂

TFP 061: How Ian Westermann Created One of the Biggest Online Tennis Instructional Sites in the World

TFP 061: How Ian Westermann Created One of the Biggest Online Tennis Instructional Sites in the World

On today’s episode of The Tennis Files Podcast, I spoke with my friend Ian Westermann, founder of Essential Tennis. I asked him about his passion for the game, how he went from country club tennis instructor to one of the biggest online tennis instructional sites in the world, and how we can become better singles and doubles players, among many other interesting topics.  Ian was featured in Forbes as one of the most successful online tennis instruction entrepreneurs and he is considered one of the pioneers of online tennis instruction.

Ian started the Essential Tennis Podcast in 2008, which is one of the most popular tennis podcasts of all time. Ian and his awesome team at ET have produced an incredible amount of free, high-quality, value-filled videos that have helped millions of people improve their tennis games.  The proof is in the pudding: Essential Tennis currently has over 125k subscribers on Youtube, which says a lot about the quality of ET’s instructional content. Ian and his team have also created tons of amazing premium tennis courses at EssentialTennis.com.

It was a pleasure having Ian on The Tennis Files Podcast, especially because we both share the same passion as you do: to become better tennis players.  I hope you enjoy this episode of TFP with Ian, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [3:36] Ian’s secret nickname
  • [4:49] Does Ian really have an Essential Tennis tattoo?
  • [5:19] How Ian got his start in tennis
  • [9:08] Ian’s incredible passion for the game
  • [13:22] Ian’s junior career
  • [16:47] Not making the college team the first year
  • [19:22] The highlight of Ian’s college tennis career – playing in the zone
  • [24:32] Ian’s experience taking the Professional Tennis Management Program at Ferris State
  • [28:35] Ian’s coaching jobs at various tennis and country clubs and the frustrations he experienced
  • [33:56] Tough career choices
  • [36:23] The Essential Tennis Podcast: one of the longest standing tennis podcast out there
  • [38:32] What to expect next from The Essential Tennis Podcast
  • [41:15] Leading yourself through the tennis learning process when you can’t find a coach for you
  • [44:04] Ian’s 3 key tips to playing better singles
  • [46:10] How to become a better doubles player
  • [50:28] What is a Vlog and why Ian started one
  • [54:52] Three books Ian would gift to a friend to help him/her become a better tennis player
  • [58:36] When to expect Ian’s new book
  • [59:38] What’s in store next from Essential Tennis
  • [1:00:46] Where can we connect with Ian and Essential Tennis online
  • [1:01:51] One key tip to help us improve our tennis games

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Essential Tennis Podcast – iTunes link here

Essential Tennis Youtube Channel

Essential Tennis Website

Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin

Mastery – George Leonard

Winning Ugly – Brad Gilbert

Tennis Files Youtube Channel – Subscribe!  You know you want to 😉

If you enjoyed my interview with Ian, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

For more tips on how to improve your game, subscribe to my newsletter and download a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success below! Thanks for listening!

Tennis Summit 2018

Announcing Tennis Summit 2018!

After nearly 4 months of hard work, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be hosting the world’s biggest online tennis conference: Tennis Summit 2018!

From April 25-30, you’ll be able to watch presentations and interviews from 30+ world-class coaches on your computer and smartphone.

And you can get a free ticket to watch all the sessions!

The lineup of over 30 top coaches and experts on the summit includes:

  • Paul Annacone
  • Gigi Fernandez
  • Craig O’Shannessy
  • Jeff Salzenstein
  • Dr. Mark Kovacs
  • Ian Westermann
  • Allistair McCaw
  • Will Hamilton
  • Satoshi Ochi
  • Dr. Neeru Jayanthi
  • David Bailey

The experts on Tennis Summit 2018 will teach you the technique, strategy, fitness, and mental toughness you need to help you become a better player and reach the next level.

You’ll get to watch over 30 hours of extremely valuable video presentations, interviews, and recorded lessons during the 6 days of the summit.

I truly appreciate the time and effort from all of the coaches and experts to help make this summit a fantastic event!

Here’s a quick little preview of the summit that my video editor created for you:

The awesome part about this event is that it is free to attend!

Think of how much cash you’d have to invest to get this amount of advice from all of these world-class coaches. Even one tip could make a huge difference in your game, and you’re going to learn about a hundred of them when you attend this event.

The coaches on the summit have had so much success helping thousands of players like you improve their games.

Now it is your turn.

You also have the option to upgrade to lifetime access to all the videos, which includes downloadable mp3 audio files so you can listen to the sessions from anywhere you want, access to a private facebook group to discuss tennis with other passionate tennis players like you, a question and answer session with me, and other exclusive bonuses.

For all the value you are getting, I think the price (hint, it’s under $100!) is pretty reasonable.

Whether you just want to watch the videos, or upgrade to the All-Access Pass, it’s a no-brainer to sign-up for your free ticket to the event.

If you’re a passionate tennis player who wants to improve your game, you’ve got no excuse not to check out Tennis Summit 2018.

Click here to get your free ticket to Tennis Summit 2018!

I’d also really appreciate it if you could share the event with any people or groups that are interested in becoming better tennis players. My goal is to positively impact as many people as possible with the summit.

Click Here to Share the Summit on Facebook!

Click Here to Tweet the Summit!

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at mehrban@tennisfiles.com.

Let’s make this event as big as we can!! See you at the summit!

Sign-up for Tennis Summit 2018 below!

Get Your Free Ticket to Tennis Summit 2018!

Join 30+ world-class experts from April 25-30. Register Now!

TFP 060: Tennis Summit 2018 Preview

TFP 060: Tennis Summit 2018 Preview

After nearly 4 months of hard work, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be hosting the world’s biggest online tennis conference: Tennis Summit 2018!

From April 25-30, you’ll be able to watch presentations and interviews from 30+ world-class coaches on your computer and smartphone. And you can get a free ticket to watch all the sessions!

On today’s episode of TFP, I put together a preview of Tennis Summit 2018.  You’ll get to listen to five ten-minute clips of some of the best sessions on the summit.  These sessions include presentations and interviews from Paul Annacone (coach of Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, and Tim Henman), 17-time grand slam champion Gigi Fernandez, sports performance expert and iTPA/Kovacs Institute founder Dr. Mark Kovacs, performance consultant and founder of the McCaw Method, Allistair McCaw, and registered Dietician Jeff Rothtschild, who has worked with the Brian Brothers and other famous athletes from multiple sports.

I hope you enjoy this preview episode of Tennis Summit 2018, and be sure to get your free ticket to the summit here!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [2:38] Paul Annacone – The Secrets of Federer, Sampras, and Henman
  • [14:16] Gigi Fernandez – Optimal Doubles Strategy From a 17-Time Grand Slam Champion
  • [26:01] Dr. Mark Kovacs – Mastering Your On-Court Movement
  • [37:39] Allistair McCaw – How to Become Champion Minded
  • [50:10] Jeff Rothschild – Carbohydrates, Sports Drinks, and the Heat

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Tennis Summit 2018

Tennis Technique Summit

Join me at the world’s biggest online tennis conference, Tennis Summit 2018, by signing up for free below!!

Get Your Free Ticket to Tennis Summit 2018!

Join 30+ world-class experts from April 25-30. Register Now!

TFP 059: Gigi Fernandez - The Unlikely Path to 17 Grand Slam Titles

TFP 059: Gigi Fernandez – The Unlikely Path to 17 Grand Slam Titles

On today’s episode, I spoke with 17-time grand slam champion Gigi Fernandez about her unique path to becoming one of the legends of tennis.  Gigi is widely considered to be one of the best doubles players of all time. She won 2 Australian Opens, 6 French Opens, 4 Wimbledons, and 5 US Opens, 2 Olympic Gold Medals with Mary Joe Fernandez, the 1990 Fed Cup, and is a Hall of Famer.  In 2000, Gigi was named Puerto Rican Athlete of the Century.  The former world #1 doubles and #17 singles player now spends her time coaching adult players how to excel in tennis and developed the Gigi Method of doubles.

We discussed how Gigi overcame a lack of resources as a junior in Puerto Rico, her strategies for playing dominating doubles, her journey to winning 17-grand slam doubles titles, the Olympics, life after tennis, and much more on Episode 59 of the The Tennis Files Podcast!

I hope you enjoy my interview with Gigi, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [3:03] Where Gigi stores her 17-grand slam trophies and the 100s of other trophies she won in her lifetime
  • [3:33] What Gigi would have been if she wasn’t a professional tennis player
  • [4:28] 3 things most of the world doesn’t know about Gigi Fernandez
  • [5:49] How Gigi got her start in tennis
  • [6:42] Memories of her Gigi’s first tennis tournament
  • [12:36] Gigi’s lack of role models and how she blazed her own trail instead
  • [8:03] Where she trained as a junior
  • [9:26] How Gigi elevated herself to the best player in Puerto Rico despite very few resources
  • [14:40] Gigi’s most memorable experience as a junior
  • [16:21] What made her decide to play at Clemson
  • [19:02]  Why Gigi improved her game the most in college vs any other time in her career
  • [23:47] Gigi’s most memorable Grand Slam win and how changing her thoughts helped her come back from her lowest point in her career
  • [27:40] Why detaching from the outcome is the most important advice Gigi has ever received in her career
  • [29:13] The benefits of meditation and how it helps control your emotions
  • [31:43] How doubles has changed from when she played vs. today
  • [34:33] Gigi’s most important accomplishment in her pro career out of all the grand slams, the #1 rankings, the gold medals, Fed Cup title, Hall of Fame induction, and all of her other titles
  • [35:23] Gigi’s experience at the Olympics and the difference playing for your country vs. at pro tournaments
  • [36:39] How Gigi was able to stay consistently successful during her remarkable run of winning at least one Grand Slam title every year from 1988–1997, except in 1989, and for three straight years winning three of the four Grand Slam doubles titles in the same year (1992–1994)
  • [39:36] How Gigi balanced her singles training with her doubles training, since she played both at a very high level
  • [41:48] Doubles drills she practiced with her partners
  • [43:22] Why she decided to retire in 1997 at the age of 33
  • [46:10] Life after pro tennis and earning a new identity: coaching pros and going back to school
  • [48:32] What is the Gigi Method and Doubles.tv all about?
  • [52:31] Big improvements players have made through learning tennis at doubles.tv
  • [54:44] Books she’d gift to a friend to help them become a better tennis player
  • [56:51] One big myth that a lot of tennis players and/or coaches believe today
  • [58:21] One key tip from Gigi to help us improve our tennis games
  • [1:00:16] Where we can find Gigi online and in person

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Gigi’s “Never Lose Your Serve” video course – Gigi’s free Video training course

Gigi Method – Gigi’s website

doubles.tv – Gigi’s doubles program

gigi@gigifernandeztennis.com – Gigi’s email

Tennis Technique Summit

Tennis Files Youtube Channel – Subscribe!  You know you want to 😉

If you enjoyed my interview with Gigi, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

For more tips on how to improve your game, download a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success below! Thanks for listening!

A Lesson from the 16th seed

5 Takeaways from the #16 Seed UMBC Retrievers

If any of you are college basketball fans, you might have heard the record breaking upset.

UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), the #16 seed in the NCAA tournament, defeated the #1 overall seed, University of Virginia, by a whopping 20 points.

I played college tennis at UMBC and am very proud of their record-breaking victory.

There’s a lot we as competitive tennis players can learn from UMBC’s stunning upset:

1. Throw seedings out the window

At the end of the day, a seed is just a number next to your name. It reflects the past, but not the present. Maybe your opponent did really well earlier in the year, but he/she hasn’t been training as often, or playing as well recently. Perhaps you have been training really hard and are actually a better player. Don’t let seeds psyche you out. Remember, its just a number. Otherwise, why even play the match?

2. Confidence through your training

Have you been working diligently on your game, improving your weaknesses and sharpening your strengths? Are you prepared for the match? Did you figure out a game plan, prepare your equipment, eat properly, and train your fitness? Then draw confidence from your training and preparation. You are ready to win! UMBC said after the game that they had the confidence they could topple UVA, and they did it.

3. Seize the victory

Many teams would try to run out the clock and hold on to the lead in UMBC’s situation. The Retrievers built up a sizeable 14-point lead early in the second half, but did they let up? No, they kept the pressure on, took their shots at the right times, and put away UVA. This is even more important in tennis, where there is no shot clock. Remember Isner-Mahut, 70-68 fifth set at Wimbledon? Keep focused on executing your strategy until you win match point.

4. Heart over Size

K.J. Maura is 5’8, but he didn’t let his size disadvantage stop him from wreaking havoc on UVA’s defense. Instead, he used his strengths, including his speed and competitive drive, to overcome that obstacle. Similarly, if you are facing an opponent with a huge serve or overpowering stature, your thought should not be “oh crap I’m doomed,” but “awesome, now let’s figure out how to defeat my opponent by using my strengths and exploiting his/her weaknesses.”

5. Playing in the Zone

The Retrievers were able to get into the optimal frame of mind, the perfect mix of intensity, relaxation, and fun on the court that let them play incredible basketball. This will be different for everyone, in terms of how serious, intense, and relaxed you need to be to play your best. Pay attention to your demeanor before and after matches, visualize success, and you’ll be on your way to performing better on the court and, every once in a while, playing in the zone.

There’s a lot to learn and be inspired about from UMBC’s victory, and I hope they keep this run going.

Now all they have to do is bring back the tennis team.

TFP 058: How to Hit Kick Serves with Ramon Osa

TFP 058: How to Hit Kick Serves with Ramon Osa

On today’s episode, I spoke with Ramon Osa from Osa Tennis 360 about how to hit kick serves.  Ramon is an expert at helping tennis players discover the fun in tennis, while showing them what they need to do to improve their technique and tactics.  Ramon is the founder of Osa Tennis 360, where he produces value-filled and fun tennis videos.  He also has an awesome Youtube channel with fantastic tips and advice.  Ramon believes that fun, along with the right system to develop world-class strokes and sound fundamentals, is the key to improving your tennis game.

We discussed technical aspects of the kick serve, how to toss the ball properly when hitting a kick serve, kick serve strategy, Ramon’s approach on how to learn this severely underused and often feared serve, and much more on Episode 58 of the The Tennis Files Podcast!

I hope you enjoy my interview with Ramon, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [5:56] What is the kick serve, and how can it help us win tennis matches?
  • [9:07] Why are players uncomfortable hitting or trying to hit kick serves?
  • [11:05] At what level (NTRP rating) do players consistently use the kick serve?
  • [12:34] The number one thing that players do incorrectly when trying to hit a kick serve.
  • [13:41] How to be more relaxed when serving
  • [15:15] The technical differences between the kick serve and a flat or slice serve
  • [17:38] How we should toss the ball when we hit a kick serve.
  • [18:45] How should we approach developing our kick serve — piece by piece or as a whole?
  • [20:17] Ramon’s two favorite drills that teaches us how to hit a kick serve.
  • [22:28] How far forward should we lean into the court for kick serves?
  • [25:21] How often should we use the kick serve in tennis matches?
  • [27:26] Why we should use the kick serve more often in doubles matches
  • [23:18] One key tip to help us hit better kick serves
  • [30:52] How Ramon’s serve course helps tennis players develop their kick serves
  • [34:56] What is in the course, and how is it organized?
  • [38:44] Results Ramon’s players have achieved through his instruction and courses
  • [41:55] Advice to players who don’t believe they can develop a solid kick serve

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Osa Tennis 360 – Ramon’s website

Ramon’s Serve Course

Ramon’s Youtube Channel – Osa Tennis 360

Ramon’s Facebook Page

Tennis Technique Summit

Tennis Files Youtube Channel – Subscribe!  You know you want to 😉

If you enjoyed my interview with Ramon, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

For more tips on how to improve your game, download a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success below! Thanks for listening!

11 Fitness Principles That Improved My Tennis Game

11 Fitness Principles for Competitive Tennis Players

In 2011, I learned an unforgettable lesson about the importance of fitness training.  The day after I took the bar exam, I played tennis and worked out as much as possible.   I had slaved away for the past 4 months studying 10+ hours a day, and come hell or highwater, I was going to make up for the lost time!  It proved to be a foolish move.  I wasn't fit enough to workout in the morning, play tennis for 2 hours, and workout again in the evening, but I tried to anyway. 

I still remember the moment I pushed up from the 9th rep of a high-bar squat during my evening workout, when I heard a crack.  My knee was in pain, and when I visited the doctor, he diagnosed me with a knee condition called chondromalacia.  Gulp. 🙁

I underwent several months of rehab exercises and weird knee creaking noises whenever I stood up from a seated position. It was during this time that I first understood how important it is to have an organized, goal-oriented, and sensible approach to fitness training.  Without it, I wouldn't be able to play the game that I love for much longer.

Tennis players routinely ignore and underestimate fitness training with well-thought out comments, such as "fitness doesn't matter bro, work on technique."  Fitness does matter, way more than the average tennis player comprehends.

This realization motivated me to become a certified Tennis Performance Trainer by the International Tennis Performance Association (iTPA).  I've also interviewed some of the greatest tennis fitness experts on the planet on my podcast, like Dr. Mark Kovacs, Todd EllenbeckerAllistair McCawDean Hollingworth, and Dominic King.  And I had the pleasure of attending the iTPA World Tennis Fitness Conference in July, where I met Andre Agassi's fitness coach Gil Reyes

There are several key fitness principles I've learned which, based on speaking to many of you in my audience and reading tennis forums, are either unknown or not practiced by much of the tennis community. Your talent will never be realized if you don't put in the work to level up your fitness.  Below are the 11 most important fitness principles that improved my tennis game.

1. You Need Fitness Training to Improve and Avoid Injuries

When you witness the incredible play of the top professionals, like Federer and Nadal, their amazing offensive and defensive plays would not be possible without fitness training.  In particular, the top players have all developed a world-class level of tennis-specific power.  Power is a combination of strength and speed.  When you see a player rip a forehand or explode up and into the serve, those are power movements.  All tennis players can improve their game by increasing their power output.  Great technique is extremely important, but when you are satisfied with your technique on a particular stroke, the next step to improving it is by developing more power. 


Another reason for fitness training is protecting yourself from injury.  Why do we get injured? There are many reasons, including overuse, muscle imbalances, and a lack of strength and/or flexibility.  When you increase your strength, you protect your body against injuries.  The same muscle that keeps getting pounded on the tennis court or when hitting the ball will be able to withstand many more reps without breaking down when you are stronger.  Think about it this way: the extra 30-45 minutes you put into fitness training a couple times a week can dramatically increase your chances of playing tennis injury-free, at a higher level, and for a lifetime. Does fitness training sound more appealing now?  


Think about all the injuries  that happened on the tour recently (Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, Novak Djokovic, Bethany Mattek-Sands, Milos Raonic, and the list goes on). The best in the world devote a significant amount of time to their fitness to prevent injuries and improve their performance.  It makes sense for us to do the same.


2. You Need a Long-Term, Goal-Oriented Workout Plan Before You Start Training

When I first started training to improve my tennis fitness, I went to the gym and did a bunch of random exercises with weights. It's a great first step, except I didn't have a long-term plan for how I wanted to improve physically.  Nor did I have a clue how the way I was training would impact my game. Was my 3 sets of 10 of bench press, squats, dumbbell flys and bicep curls going to result in increased muscle gains, strength, endurance, or power? Which muscles and tennis strokes would be most affected by my workout? What was the ultimate purpose of me training in the gym, and would I reach that goal with my routine?


Answer the following questions below to help you and your coach or fitness trainer create an optimal long-term training plan:


  1. Self-Assessment: What are your strengths, weaknesses, and physical limitations? 
  2. Timing: What part of the year do you need to reach your peak physical fitness levels?
  3. Sequence: When and in what order will you train for general fitness, strength, endurance, hypertrophy (muscle mass), and power (the ultimate goal)?
  4. Routine:  What exercises and how many repetitions/sets will you use during your workouts, and how many days per week will you train?
  5. Rest: When will you designate rest periods in between your workout days and training cycles?
  6. Debrief: How did your game improve as a result of your training, and what will you change differently for the next training cycle?

The fittest players have specific, long-term plans organized in phases (i.e. they periodize their training) so they peak for the biggest tournaments.   All too often the amateur tennis player sees a couple of exercises on Youtube and adds them to his or her routine without thinking about their effects.   You can't just randomly schlep together a few exercises and expect to be the next David Ferrer on the court in a few weeks. It can take several months or longer to reach peak performance levels, but it will be worth it when you are the fittest tennis player you've ever been in your life.


Use the criteria above to help you construct an effective long-term workout plan, or you can get my free tennis fitness workout guide to help you get started.  

3. Different Rep/Set/Weight Ranges Train Different Performance Goals

Another principle of fitness training that you may not realize is the effect of the number of sets, repetitions, and weight you use during training.  For example, lifting 3 sets of 10 repetitions with light weights will have a different effect on your body than 4 sets of 5 repetitions with heavy weights.  The amount of weight that fitness professionals suggest you lift is often based on your "one-rep max," which is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition.  


I put together a simple graphic below to illustrate how many sets, reps, and the amount of weight you should use to train different areas of your fitness:  

Strength

Rep range: 4-8 repetitions

Sets: 3-5 

Weight: 70-90% of 1-rep max  

Hypertrophy

Reps: 6-12 repetitions

Sets: 3-4  

Weight: 60-80% of 1-rep max.

Endurance

Rep range: 15-30 repetitions

Sets: 3-5 

Weight: 40-60% of 1-rep max

Power

Rep range: 6 or less repetitions 

Sets: 3-5

Weight: 30-60% of 1-rep max

To figure out your one-rep maximum and receive free sample tennis workout routines, click here


A note of caution: you can also develop strength using less than four repetitions with heavier (over 90% 1RM) weights, but I especially recommend that you have a spotter and learn perfect technique on the exercises in this case, or you might injure yourself. Be careful!

4. The Type of Stretching Before and After You Play Are Totally Different

Dynamic stretching is far superior to static stretching before playing matches and training.   This type of stretching activates the muscles that will be used during play/training but does not involve holding the stretch at the end position like static stretching.  Examples of dynamic stretching are arm circles, knee to chest walk, and lateral lunges.  Before playing, I warm up my body with light jogging or the elliptical for 5 minutes or so, followed by dynamic stretching to activate my tennis muscles.  The proper time to perform static stretching (i.e. lying hamstring stretch, pec stretch) is after training and/or competition.  


There are numerous studies (thank you, science!) concluding that power output from athletes is substantially lower if static stretching is performed pre-competition rather than dynamic stretching.  The reduced performance from static stretching has been shown to last for 60 minutes.  Power is an extremely important component of tennis and the science shows that dynamic stretching will enhance athletic performance in place of static stretching.  


I have committed to my dynamic and static stretching more than ever this past year with fantastic results.  Here's my routine for pre and post-match preparation/recovery:


  1. General warm-up (i.e. jog, bike)
  2. Dynamic Stretching (i.e. knee to chest, lunges, arm circles)
  3. Play Tennis or Physical Training
  4. Static Stretching (i.e. shoulder stretch, quadricep stretch)
  5. Other Recovery Techniques (i.e. massage, foam roll, ice bath)

You can check out Episode 57 of The Tennis Files Podcast to hear me talk about my warm-up routines in more detail.  

5. Weight Training Does NOT Make You Slow and Inflexible if You Implement the Right Training Program

It's not the weights that can make you slow, it's the way you train.  One of the main goals of a resistance training program for tennis players is to develop maximal power output with a small amount of weight (i.e. swinging your tennis racquet).  However, if your workout routine is not properly designed for developing power, then you may end up becoming slower on the court.  For example, using a set/rep scheme of 4 sets of 15 reps with light weights or 5 sets of 5 reps with a very heavy weight without a power or agility/speed phase in your long-term training plan could set you back a step or two.


This is why you have to understand the different ways that training variables affect your physical abilities.  See #3 above for the effect of different set/rep/weight schemes on your physical training.  A properly structured long-term training plan will help you be more explosive and fitter on the court.  Either you or a qualified trainer must choose the right mix of exercises and parameters that will get you quicker, faster, stronger, and fitter by the time your big tournaments or USTA league matches take place. This handy tennis fitness workout guide I created for you will help you get started.

6. Your Fitness Affects Your Technique More Than You Think

Tennis technique and a fit body and mind are intertwined.  In tennis, you must perform the same technical movements over and over again with similar power outputs to play optimally on the court.  Has your technique ever gone down the tubes after fatigue set in?  I'm sure that just about every player on the planet has.  But if you implement the right exercises and a proper rep/set/weight and work-rest ratios in your training, you can maintain and improve your technique during long matches.  Good technique is about having the strength to perform a movement efficiently through the entire range of motion over and over again.  If you have a shoulder injury or a tight lower back, you won't be able to perform proper technique once, let alone hundreds of times during the course of a couple sets.  


Another example is the loading phase of the serve.  Have you wondered why you or other players aren't able to get into an optimal loading position like the pros do? There's a good chance this is due to inflexibility, lack of strength, and/or muscle imbalances as much as it could be a lack of proper technical knowledge.  Injury prevention, improved power output on the court, and the ability to perform at a high-level for a long period of time are all benefits of a proper tennis fitness regimen that can also make a huge difference in your technique.   And don't make your age an excuse, because you can always improve your physical qualities with consistent effort and dedication!  

7. Tennis Technique is All About Using Your Kinetic Chain Efficiently

From the moment I interviewed Dr. Kovacs on my podcast, I became a huge fan.  He is one of the most knowledgeable sports performance experts on the planet, and that's no exaggeration.  One of his most well-known research papers is about the 8-stage model of the tennis serve.  Mark's session on the Tennis Technique Summit that I hosted several months ago was the most watched of all 30 coaches.  The 8-stage model of the tennis serve explains how the optimal serve can only be achieved through a total body effort in specific phases, starting from the lower body upwards.  If a link in the chain is broken (under-rotation of the hips, for example), the player will lose power and acceleration.  


The kinetic chain applies to all tennis strokes.  And what you see on the court every day, especially from the 2.5-4.0 levels, is players arming their strokes.  Most people think about using the arms first, which makes sense.  It is reasonable to assume that you swing the racquet and hit the ball with your arm.  But then the rest of the body will not contribute to the stroke, as it must do to achieve full power.   Dr. Kovacs's research paper breaks down the serve into the following phases: (1) Preparation (2) Release (3) Loading (4) Cocking (5) Acceleration (6) Contact (7) Deceleration (8) Finish.  It is a very enlightening read, and I highly recommend you check it out.  You must use your kinetic chain if you want to have efficient and effective tennis strokes.

8. Train Based on Your Style of Play and Your Strengths/Weaknesses

What's your style of play?  If you grind at the baseline, but your footwork training is exclusively sprints, that's not smart training.  In fact, baseliners move laterally about 70% of the time.  Similarly, if you only train your chest and back in the gym, you are neglecting far more important power sources, like your core and lower body.  Here's an example of training for your style of play: if you serve and volley, you should perform lunges in different directions, since lunges are a very sport-specific move for volleying. If you lack flexibility, you need to concentrate on performing an adequate amount of stretches (dynamic pre-training, static post-training).  Lately, I've recognized that my left IT band tends to get tight, so I focus on stretching and foam rolling that area more frequently.


It is always important to ask yourself why you are performing an exercise or training.   Gil Reyes told a group of us in Atlanta that Andre Agassi always asked Gil the simple question "Why?" when Gil told Andre to perform an exercise.  Andre wanted to know the purpose of each exercise he was asked to perform and how they would help his game.  You have to ask yourself the same question.  Bicep curls help you look good on the beach, but how do they fit into your overall tennis fitness goals?  Make your fitness program specific to your playing style.

9. Intake Enough Fluids, Sodium, and Carbohydrates Before, During, and After Matches

So you're going to play a tournament match and all you're drinking is water? You cannot be serious!  It's fairly common knowledge that we all need to hydrate properly. But most people ignore the importance of sodium and carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are your main source of fuel during points, and sodium is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat.  


Part of the iTPA certification course I took highlighted that we should intake 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during a match, and consume a drink with 70mg or more of sodium per 8 fluid ounces.  Since I have followed these two guidelines over the past several months, I have experienced a substantial boost in energy on the court during my matches.  I always pack a Cliff Bar and a Gatorade (or Pedialyte if it's really hot) along with water to help me through my matches.  I also like to bring bananas, dates, and pretzels if I have them.

10. Sleep is the Most Important Aspect of Recovery

Did you know that you don't build muscles while you train, you build them while you sleep?  I urge you not to fall into the trap of seeing a few celebrities or your friends boast about sleeping under 6 hours a night and think you can function optimally with the same amount of sleep deprivation. A 2011 study of the Stanford Men's Basketball team, where the players slept 10 hours a night, resulted in faster sprint times, a 9% increase in free-throw accuracy, and a 9.2% increase in three-point accuracy.  In a game of razor-thin margins, this makes a huge difference.  


Two of the greatest athletes of all-time don't play around with their sleep either: basketball superstar Lebron James averages 12 hours of sleep per night, and some relatively-unknown tennis legend-dude named Roger Federer gets around 10 hours of sleep per night.  I have experimented with sleeping under 7 hours versus 8 or more hours after my matches, and I feel way more recovered and less sore after getting more sleep.  Everyone is different, so figure out what works best for you.  If you want to fully recover from your matches, get enough sleep!

11. Consistency is Key: Start Small and Work Up

The most important aspect of a fitness program is sticking to it.  What's a better program: two thirty-minute lifting sessions per week that you can maintain, or four days of 1-hour lifting sessions that you only stick to for 2 weeks and then go back to eating cheetos on the couch?  The answer is pretty clear.  The easiest way to stick to a workout plan is to start small.  If you feel pressed for time, make it a goal to workout for 20-30 minutes twice a week.  This small goal is so manageable that the chances of you sticking to it is very high.  Then once you get used to a consistent workout schedule, you can add another day in, and/or increase the time of your workouts as needed.  


This principle reminds me of the story of the guy who hated to floss. A friend of his suggested that he try to floss just one tooth a day.  While this sounds ridiculous, it was so easy to do, so the guy started flossing one tooth a day consistently. This small victory encouraged the guy to floss more teeth, until he ended up flossing all his teeth every day.  Lesson learned: above all else, choose a workout you can consistently perform and scale up from there.

I hope that the 11 most important fitness principles that improved my tennis game will help you become a fitter, more improved tennis player.  Pick one of the principles above that resonated with you the most, implement that concept into your fitness habits, and let me know how it works out for you.  

If there is a tennis fitness principle that has helped your game that you didn't see on the list, let us know what it is by leaving a comment below.  And if you have any questions, email me at mehrban@tennisfiles.com.

To download a free sample tennis workout guide that I created to help you become fitter and avoid injuries, click here or fill out the short form below! Thanks for reading, and keep improving your tennis game!

TFP 057: Top 10 Things That Improved My Game in 2017

TFP 057: Top 10 Things That Improved My Game in 2017

On today’s show, I reveal the top 10 things that improved my tennis game in 2017.  It’s always critical to periodically examine your progress so that you can figure out what is working and what you may need to change to become a better tennis player.  I sat down and made a list of things that I did differently in 2017, and then marked the top 10 of those changes to discuss on the podcast.  I encourage you to pick one or two of the things I mention on the show, try them out, and see how it works for you.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy this episode!

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Tennis Fitness Workout Guide

SMART Goals Guide

Cliff Bars – White Chocolate Macadamia

Progress Planner

Tennis Technique Summit

International Tennis Performance Association

Why Dynamic Stretching is Superior to Static Stretching Before Competition

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Note: Some of the links above are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase after clicking them, I make one-hundred-billion dollars a small commission that helps support the podcast. Thanks either way! 🙂

If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

To improve your tennis fitness, download a free sample workout plan here! Thanks for listening!

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