The tennis warm-up—that obligatory 10 minutes spent with an opponent right before the match—is among the most misunderstood elements of the sport.
For one, it's not a warm-up. The real work happens long before the players crack open that can of new balls and take a few practice serves.
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"That time spent with your opponent is really just to get used to the court and the environment, but it's not a warm-up," says Bill Wright, former men's tennis head coach at University of California at Berkeley and the University of Arizona.
"When you watch Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer warm up before a big match remember this is just window dressing," Wright says. "The real warm-up, when they literally recreate and practice every shot possible and play it out a million different ways, happened two hours before."
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Most players don't have time to put in a Nadal-style warm-up.
Here are a few tips and tricks to turn that flimsy pre-match practice into an efficient warm-up that will improve your game.
From the first shot of the match, a player has to be ready to react quickly, Wright says. And yet most players walk right out onto court, take some practice shots and start playing.
"Your body isn't ready, your muscles aren't ready," says Wright, who was named NCAA Coach of the Year during his 12-year stint at Cal State.
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Before the match, give yourself five minutes to work up a little sweat. Skip or jog around the court, shuffle, do grapevines or try butt kicks.
Use the Back Fence
Most tennis courts are surrounded by a chain-link fence to keep those balls from wandering. Who knew it was the perfect stretching tool?
Stretch your arms over your head and grab hold of the fence. Keep holding as you plant your feet and push back, almost into a sitting position.