Tennis has become so physical that going out there and just being able to hit the ball nicely is no longer enough. You have to be able to cover the whole court and change direction within a couple of milliseconds. Your hand-eye coordination has to be very good otherwise you won’t be able to handle the speed of the serve or the groundstrokes of your opponent. Therefore, it is important to be ready when you step onto the court.
Whenever I am at home playing or teaching in a club I notice that most of the players don’t take themselves seriously enough. Tennis is an individual sport and you are responsible for yourself. There is no substitute for your position as there is in team sports. There is no tie. There are a winner and a loser.
Having said that, doing some extra things will allow you to get the maximum out of your game. Warm-ups and cool-downs are very important. They help you create routines and send out signals to your body; hopefully, the right signals. Taking an extra 15 minutes before and after a practice session will help you to be more successful on the long term. No matter which level of tennis you are playing, it will have an impact on your game.
Some players on the tour warm up in the gym on the treadmill for a couple of minutes to get their heart rate up and send a message to their body, something like “hey, you better get ready!“. Since Caroline Wozniacki is training to run the New York marathon she is starting her warm-up in the treadmill before any practice and match.
Then, they might need to use equipment, i.e. rubber bands (resistance bands) or medicine balls to do some more specific exercises and warming up muscle groups.
Other players warm up by doing certain movement preparations or they even strike yoga poses that give their muscle groups a stretch and tension at the same time, just like Grigor Dimitrov. Andy Murray is big in Pilates. Also, during his off season, he is implanting it into his training routine.
Those routines can sometimes take up to 30-40 minutes and the players are clearly ready to start their practice or match. Ideally, you should already be sweating when you entering the arena. You can compare it to a mini work-out. It all adds up and your body is going to be very thankful one day if you implement warm-up routines to your tennis. Cool-downs and post match activities such as stretching or other exercises help the system to recover faster and prevent the muscles from getting sore.
If you don’t have a physiotherapist following you on tour (which is the case for most of us), I can highly recommend using equipment such as the very famous foam roller or a fitness stick to target muscle groups. This equipment can be used to loosen up the muscles and partly massage them as well.
Please always keep in mind that everybody is different. So never trivialise but make sure to always listen to your body and learn what feels good and what doesn’t! Any training should always be tailor-made to your needs.