Interview with Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka lost her #1 ranking after this year’s Roland Garros. She returned to her birthplace of Minsk, Belarus and is currently training there preparing for Wimbledon.

Vika Azarenka. Roland Garros 2012

Today, Vika Azarenka conducted a practice session for junior tennis players on the courts of the Minsk tennis center.

Vika Azarenko in Minsk with kids.

After the practice, she answered a few questions.

Have you started preparing for Wimbledon?

Yes. My coach is coming here tomorrow. I will be training in Minsk.

After Roland Garros you have said that you are a bit tired of tennis, so have you had a chance to get away from the sport in Minsk?

I’ve tried to distract myself somehow. I’ve just been relaxing for a week.

What is more important to you during the Olympics in London, playing singles or playing mixed doubles with Max Mirnyi?

My priority is singles, but I want to succeed in mixed doubles as well. We are also planning to play together at Wimbledon.

What does losing your #1 ranking mean to you?

This is life, things happen. Now I’m number two in the world. But I still have a chance to become #1 again. So this will only give me further motivation to continue my hard work.

Have you congratulated Maria Sharapova when she achieved the number #1 ranking?

No.

How do you explain that lately you’ve been having a tough time in your first round matches?

Easy matches don’t exist. There are many factors. Sometimes there are obstacles, other times there is a tough opponent, while it can also be the difference in your physical conditions. You can’t always play your ideal game. It’s just a sport.

Victoria, are you watching the European soccer championships?

I watch it almost every day. I’m rooting for Spain, since Belarus is not participating. And since I’m pretty patriotic, I always root for my countrymen.

Sports Massage for a Tennis Player

How do you help your kid restore after a hard workout? What do you know about sports massage? Not too much, I guess. When I was a kid and used to do track and field at my school, all my teammates had a sports massage session once a week. For many years, the athletes of the Eastern European countries have included massage as a part of their intensive and continuous training schedule. And they are right because during intensive and hard work outs and competition, muscle strength and endurance of tennis players are pushed to the limit.

Remember how your tennis player feels after four consecutive tennis matches in a weekend’s tournament. I am sure that he doesn’t feel very good because a body has its own limits and needs recovery.

The goal of sports massage is to enhance the athlete’s performance. Performance is regulated by the efficiency, precision, and freedom with which the tennis player is able to move. Efficiency is dependent on training and conditioning. Sports massage permits for more intensive training.

There are four basic types of sports massage. Each kind of sports massage has a different objective and requires a different approach.

  1. Pre-event massage. Massage prior to a match to prepare a tennis player for the exertion of competition.
  2. Post-event massage. Massage after competition to normalize the tissues and relax the tennis player after the tennis match.
  3. Restorative or training massage. Massage during training to allow the tennis player to train harder with fewer injures.
  4. Rehabilitation massage. Massage during rehabilitation to recover from injury more quickly with less chance of reinjury.

When was the last time your junior tennis player got a sports massage? Have you ever thought that sports massage is a part of a tennis player’s training cycle? Some parents can say that it’s “too costly”. But if you pay $60-150 an hour for a tennis private lesson, you definitely have money for one massage session a week for your tennis player.

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Active Rest for the Body and Mind Is the Important Part of a Tennis Training

Active Rest for the Body and Mind Is the Important Part of a Tennis Training

This article is written by Diana Chalikov, owner at DCTP Tennis &Fitness.

Diana Chalikov. Fitness and tennis - Active Rest for the Body and Mind Is the Important Part of a Tennis Training

Active rest for the body and mind is the vital part of tennis training that often goes unseen as part of the overall training process.

There is really only so much that an athlete can do with his body. After that, a tennis player needs to let his body rest while still maintaining good blood flow and circulation. There are ways to rest while still actively working on things, which can be called “active rest”.

During active rest a tennis player is awake, mentally alert, focusing the mind on aiding in the recovery of the body. This also means rebuilding a strong mind-body relationship, by doing things as simple as controlled breathing.

During active rest a player should try to reconnect with the most soft and distance feelings.
An athlete should sit and breathe peacefully and welcome any thought that emerges to the surface of their awareness. When a thought comes into awareness, the thought should be felt, sensed, and given time for emotional processing. We interact with an abundance of information everyday that cannot be processed during full activity.

During dreaming while asleep, we process information in a vital way that is not clearly understood. Regardless to what dreaming actually achieves, active rest can achieve practical things.

For example, during active rest a person may suddenly recall the location of a misplaced item. Or another example might be finally dedicating time to a long neglected minor detail that has been overshadowed by bigger things in the mind.

The exercises that should be included are only the recovery type exercises that improve blood flow. Deep tissue massage and yoga are great for the recovery process.

It’s not just the muscles that need to rest; it’s also the nerves, neurons, and neuroconnections. The brain needs to be able to enter into a calm wakefulness with the lowest heart rate possible.

During levels of high excitement and active training, the brain represses many thoughts. These thoughts require calmness, and are vital to good mental and emotional health. The path to quality emotional well-being is unique for everyone, but is still basically the same.

In summary, active rest is an essential part of any balanced tennis training and fitness regime. Try to incorporate these strategies into your routine and you will be amazed at the benefits you experience.

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Waiting for The 2012 French Open Final

Maria Sharapova won a place in the 2012 French Open final and returned to the world number one with a 6-3 6-3 win over Petra Kvitova in Paris.

Maria Sharapova in the 2012 Roland Garros final

Maria Sharapova in the 2012 The French Open final

Petra Kvitova lost.

Petra Kvitova. The 2012 Roland Garros

Sara Errani reached her the first Grand Slam final. She looks happy.

Sara Errani in The 2012 Roland Garros final

Sara Errani in The 2012 French Open  final

Samantha Stosur is out of Paris.

Samanta Stosur. The 2012 Roland Garros

We’ll see what happens on Saturday. Maria Sharapova is a huge favorite. But do not forget, it is tennis. Nothing is impossible 🙂

Talking to Mitch Bridge, Southern California Tennis Academy

Here is another interview with Mitch Bridge, Southern California Tennis Academy. I found his thoughts are interesting.

Mitch Bridge, SC Tennis Academy
Can you comment on Serena Williams lost in Paris?

Serena’s loss first round at the French Open had largely to do with her lack of a safe rally ball. She could have survived her match against a very worthy opponent by putting more balls in play-especially on big points. Her game appeared dated because she couldn’t hit heavy like so many of the girls can do now. Hard and flat seemed like her only option. She can usually serve her way out of it, but on the slow, red clay her opponent was able to return her 1st serves.

Why US tennis players lost their leadership in world tennis? What are main reasons for that?

There are two main reasons that the US isn’t faring well in professional tennis, especially on the men’s side.

The first reason is that tennis has become so global that many countries are producing quality players and the competition is much greater. In the 1970’s when the US had 25-30% of the top 100 pro players, tennis was only popular in 10-12 countries. Now tennis is widely popular all over the world, and in many of those countries tennis is more popular than it is in the US in the heirarchy of sports. This is largely due to tennis becoming an Olympic sport in 1988. Countries started investing in tennis development for their athletes, giving tennis more credibility as a sport for the masses. Now tennis is growing faster than any other major sport in the world.

Secondly, the US is failing to produce top tennis talent professionally among its citizens because our top athletes are playing football and basketball. The US has some of the greatest athletes in the world, but they are not playing men’s tennis. Two of our best female athletes are the Williams’ sisters, and they have done extremely well. But our best boys aren’t being funneled into tennis development. Imagine if Kobe Bryant, Lebron James or Adrian Peterson were trained in tennis since the age of 5 or 6. This is where the USTA should put their Player Development dollars. The US could have as many or more top players than any other country if it went out and recruited the best athletes and sponsored them into tennis. Only when this happens will the US once again have many top players, and this in turn will make the sport more popular to the US audience which will drive the sport for many years to come.

USTA recommends for players who are not in top 5 in USA go to college, and try to play on pro level after college tennis (like John Isner). What are pros and cons of that advice?

I agree with the USTA recommendation that players out of the top 5 in the US go to college first before playing the pro tour. With the way college tennis is structured now, college players can play as many as 15 pro events during the calendar year. This gives them plenty of opportunities to test the pro waters. If they have enough success in these pro events-meaning winning Grand Prix level main draw matches-then turn pro. Going to college on a scholarship allows a player to mature, gain free coaching and travelling, and grow into a strong enough player to play at the top. The biggest obstacle to the college route is not age but the building of enough weaponry to succeed to the top of the tour. Players need to continue to strive for tremendous growth in their games in order to eventually make the jump to the pros.

What is the most important thing in Roger Federer play? Why he was able to win 16 Grand Slams? If someone can overreach this achievement in future?

Roger Federer’s greatness in tennis has mostly to do with sublime athleticism. Roger is truly one of the best athletes in the world, and he happens to play tennis. His quickness, agility, coordination, feel and mental fortitude are as good or better than any of the great soccer or basketball athletes. Roger is a elite professional athlete who could succeed in any sport that he trained in at the highest of levels.

Roger Federer has won 16 Grand Slam tournaments because has dominated, along with Rafael Nadal, professional tennis for most of the last 10 years. His ability to stay healthy and compete in every major for that duration, and his unparallaled drive to be the greatest keep him at the top of the game and help him create the opportunities to win majors. Roger’s ability to rise to another level in the biggest matches has made him nearly unbeatable in many finals, especially at Wimbledon and the US Open which are played on faster courts.

A frequent question asked these days is “can anyone ever pass Federer’s record of 16 majors?” Although it is truly a remarkable run of Majors, I believe Rafael Nadal will break the 16 major mark before his career is over. He is still the player to beat at the French, and he was right there at the Australian almost winning his 11th Major. He is great on grass as well, and he has an unmatched competitive will that hasn’t been seen since Jimmy Connors. It would take remarkably good health, and Novak Djokovic relenting some of his dominance for Nadal to stay in contention for 17 majors.

What are your three advices to junior tennis players?

My advice to junior players is as follows:

Decide what your priorities are in your life. How badly do you desire to be a great player? Do you really want tennis success badly enough to leave the life you currently have for a new tennis life? It will take ten years to make you a champion! Do you have the patience to last that long with your training? It is easier to become a doctor than to succeed on the professional tour.

If you still want to be a tennis champion after answering all of the previous questions and defying logic, then you need to make a game plan for your future success. The first component of every champion is having a coach that can make you a champion. He needs to have many high level skills: (a) technical and tactical knowledge, (b) overview of the professional game and how your game can compete given your size, skill set, and temperament, (c) time and commitment over several years of training, and (d) ability to blend tennis training, competitive play, physical training, tournament coaching and diet into helping control all aspects of your athletic and tennis development.

The last aspect to becoming a world-class player is to put yourself in a competitive environment. You need to be in a location that offers a good climate to train in every day. This location should be outdoors to cut down on costs, and allow you to play in some wind and sun to prepare you for the reality of tennis competition. Also, the training region should be at sea level. Altitude training is good for fitness but bad for your tennis game. The ball travels to quickly with little effort, so players don’t create powerful enough games, and the rallies are too short at altitude counter to the reality of playing on the tour. The other important aspect is to make sure you are training in a region that has very strong and frequent tournament opportunities. Players need to consistently test themselves in tournaments and gain valuable tournament match experience without having to travel too much Travel is fatiguing and takes away from training time.

These three variables will decide your future and allow you the best chance at becoming a champion.

Thank you Mitch for interesting and useful thoughts.