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The Science of Tennis Performance and Physical Training.


Tennis requires an athlete not only to have the ANAEROBIC (short sprint) energy system developed but also the AEROBIC (endurance) energy system to be trained to a very high level also.


The ANAEROBIC energy system will give the player the ability to play a long point and recover quickly for the next one. It is the mosy important part of training for tennis. With only 20 seconds rest between points, it is vital that an player maximises recovery during this short rest period. Heart rate needs to come down, fresh blood needs to be pumped to the arms and legs, breathing rate needs to be reduced….all of these things will help focus and readiness for the next point.


Many times, a missed serve return after a long previous point is a result of heart rate not coming down enough during the rest period between the points. Thus accuracy of the shot is lost, control of the feet and body, fine control of the racquet is reduced. Silly, unforced errors or usually the result of not recovering well enough from one point to the next. This is not something the player will always realise during a match and can increase frustration on the court. When heart rate and breathing do not recover sufficiently between points, it is NOT power that is lost on the shots, it is the ACCURACY. Loss of stroke mechanics, loss of fine motor control of the body (fraction of a step too slow, not setting up base and preparation sufficiently for high level shot execution).  


With the correct interval training program, the anaerobic energy system can be trained and developed to maximise how a player recovers and continues to recover point after point and still maintain their first step speed and produce high level shots.


The AEROBIC energy system allows a player to play long matches without becoming generally fatigued and then to recover from one day to next as they play back to back matches during a tournament. 


As with the anaerobic energy system, with the correct interval training program, the aerobic energy system can be developed and improved to a high capacity. 


To maximise the development of both sytems, the work to rest ratio of the interval training and the intensity of the bouts of work have to be fine tuned. This has to be set for each player based on their current capacity and body type and adjusted at they develop. 


Anaerobic Fitness Session with Azarenka


Energy System Development


Modern tennis is one of the most complete sports in terms of what it requires physically of the players. Hitting thousands of balls and developing the strokes is vital of course. But having a body capable of allowing you to do this over and over for extended periods of time without fatiguing is equally as important. The Energy System of a high level player needs to be able to allow them to:


  • Move explosively and powerfully for short time periods, continuously over an extended period of time.

  • Play long, back to back points during a specific game.

  • Compete at a high intensity, continuously, during a match that can last over 3 hours.

  • Recover sufficiently to play mulitple matches on back to back days throughout the week and often over a 2-3 week tournament blocks.


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