For one, it's not a warm-up. The real work happens long before the players crack open a can of new balls and take a few practices serves.
"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 the 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 it's just window dressing," Wright says. "The real warm-up, when they literally recreate and practice every shot possible, playing it out a million different ways, happened two hours before."
But most players don't have time to put in a Nadal-style warm-up. These tips and tricks will turn that flimsy pre-match practice into an efficient warm-up that will improve your game.
Get Sweaty1 of 6
"If your body isn't ready, your muscles aren't ready," says Wright, who was named NCAA Coach of the Year during his 12-year run at Cal State.
From the first shot of the match, a player has to be ready to react quickly. And yet, most players walk right out onto court, take some practice shots and start playing. Before the match, give yourself five minutes to work up a little sweat. Jog around the court, do a few sets of grapevines or try butt kicks.
Use the Back Fence2 of 6
Most tennis courts are surrounded by a chain link fence to keep balls from wandering. Who knew it was also the perfect stretching tool?
Stretch your arms over your head and take hold of the fence. Keep holding as you plant your feet and push back, almost into a sitting position. Then, change positions by grabbing the fence and leaning to the left, then to the right. You can even turn away from the fence, reach up and grab hold, leaning forward. Keep in mind, there's no need to force the stretch.
Open Up3 of 6
"You have to open everything up to be able to react in a match, otherwise your response, when the ball comes your way, will be stiff instead of fluid," Wright says.
A player's most important assets are their ankles, knees, hips and arms. Take five minutes after you've broken a small sweat to get those limbs moving.
Start with the ankles. With your toes on the ground and the heel elevated, make small circles to the left and then to the right. Next, stand with your feet and knees together. Bend your legs slightly and move your knees in a circle-like motion clockwise. Then, change direction. Repeat the same movement for the hips. For the arms, alternate the circular motion.
Don't Rely on Your Opponent4 of 6
Once a player has completed their pre-warm-up, they should grab a friend and a racquet and head out onto the court. Wright suggests reserving about 15 minutes to hit balls with a partner before your "obligatory warm-up" with the opponent.
Forget about dinking the ball over the net. Get back to the baseline and hit through the ball.
"There's no need to kill it," Wright says. "The point is to slow the stroke down, but make it complete. Hit through the ball, don't push it. Exaggerate your movements even with the serve. Emphasize the bending down and lifting up. This isn't about mimicking. It's about extending, exaggerating, going bigger and longer."
Take Pride in the Warm-Up5 of 6
The best tennis players take pride in their warm-up. That means completing all of the steps efficiently and concentrating on the movements. If done correctly, the entire tennis warm-up can be accomplished in under 30 minutes.
"I'm not saying you have to win the warm-up, but don't be sloppy about it," Wright concludes.