It happens that extended time off the court is part of every tennis player’s career, but what is the best way to return to play after four-plus weeks off the court? WTA tour player Francesca Di Lorenzo gives a first-hand insight into a professional tennis player’s return to play game plan looks like, something you can keep in mind the next time you are forced off the court!
FD: After an extended break from tennis, I start to get back into training by going back to the basics. Really simplifying things down and for me personally, that is with a lot of ball feeding and drilling. This helps me get rid of the rustiness and also get back to feeling my shots, right movements, and balance. As the first and maybe second week go by, I start ramping up my training with higher intensity, incorporating more movement, and some two on one drills.
A couple of weeks prior to my next tournament, I begin playing a lot of points and getting some match play in. I, along with my coach Ann (Grossman WTCA President), strive to balance the different types of training. It is never all drilling or only sets for the week. Not only do you become physically tired from the repetition but it weighs on the player mentally as well and thus the quality of the practice decreases. It’s essential to have an equal balance of both and mix things up.
In addition, my fitness has a similar progression as well. I begin with heavy lifting (to build a strong base), and as the weeks pass, I include more conditioning and integrating more footwork drills, the closer I get to my first tournament back. To mentally prepare, I use my practice sets/matches to mimic a real tournament atmosphere as closely as possible. If you don’t prepare mentally during practice, it probably won’t appear in a match.
For example, if I’m down in the practice set, going to the fence to take a deep breath and refocus, little things like that. Everyone has their habits, and what works for one player might not work for another. It’s just important to find what works best for you in a stressful situation, and that is something I’m still trying to do.
Stay tuned for more from Fran as over the next few months, she will be sharing inside pro tips exclusively with the WTCA.