The Hot Seat

Questions and Answers with Top Tennis Teaching Professionals

NATHAN MARTIN is a strength and conditioning tennis trainer.
Nathan has worked on the ATP and WTA circuits since 1999, including a spell as head tennis trainer at the renowned Sanchez Casal tennis academy in Barcelona.
He has helped players of all levels – from Wimbledon champions to social hitters and school kids – reach their potential through improved physical performance, injury reduction, and ongoing education.
The ‘Martin Method’, a brand name in the world of tennis fitness trainers, takes the experience and knowledge gleaned from working with athletes like Lleyton Hewitt, Sam Stosur, Martina Navratilova, Jennifer Capriati, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Monica Seles and applies it to all players of all standards. It’s a complete tennis fitness program, stretching from warm-up and cool-down routines to speed, agility, power, tennis footwork and much more.
Check out Nathan’s Tennis Fitness Programs.

Q: Along with technique and mental strength, how important is footwork and conditioning for a tennis player?
A: I believe Technique/Practice/Match play, Mental training, and Tennis Fitness training to be all as important as each other. Every player needs to have balance and all attributes need to be strong and developed. I think most players are not broad enough with their training practices, but this is changing. We are seeing a lot more players spend less time on court hitting and more time working on their physical and mental weaknesses. Without a strong body and mind, your game will not get far! 

Q: I am a beginning player, just started to learn how to play. Do I need to practice regular footwork drills? How often? What else do you recommend for a beginning player?
A: If you are just starting out with tennis. It is important to make sure you do not injure yourself, this will turn you off tennis. So Learning a basic tennis stretch routine and warm up procedure is critical. Once you have this mastered, you should look to do 1 strength session a week and 1 movement training (Agility and footwork) session. That would be the base to start from. Then there are other aspects to look at once you have growth in those areas. Endurance and power training plays a big part in the tennis game, so you would need to work on those areas. 

Q: I am a 10-year-old junior player, just started to compete in my first tournaments. How can I improve my footwork to have a better balance?
A: By following a specific online program, you can improve these areas and learn how to move better. One area a lot of young players find challenging is the speed they can do things at. It is important for young players to slow down until they have the technique and co-ordination to move quicker. This is a tip every young player and coach should follow. Quality over intensity and quantity. 

Q: Should footwork and conditioning exercises be practiced during the normal practice lessons or should there be a separate session in that regard?
A: Incorporating footwork and conditioning into on court tennis sessions works very well. It is best to break it up into short blocks throughout the session – 3 x 2-3 minutes each drill/s. Then give the players some things to work on on their own. We have coaches and players use our online programs for exercises all the time. They are simple to implement and follow and then the players can follow them online on their own. 

Q: Is it true that strong legs give tennis players more consistency and power? If yes, which strokes benefit the most from having a strong lower body?
Strength is the foundation for everything else. Strength and flexibility should be the focus for any player of any age. The whole body will benefit from following a good strength program. The more strength, the more possibility to develop power. 

Additional Q&A with Martin:
– What kind of exercises should I do before a match to get a good warm-up and avoid injury?
– I play recreational tennis and don’t like to warm-up before a friendly match. Is it ok if I just hit slowly and warm-up as I play?
– I am a competitive player but I live in a location where I cannot play tennis during the wintertime. What can I do to keep my fitness and overall strength during the 4-5 months away from the courts?
– I play competitive tennis. After a match, do you recommend any exercises? What kind?
– I am a competitive player. Sometimes I have to play two matches per day. Should I do any exercises between matches or just let the body rest?
– Should recreational players copy the warm-up routines of pro players?
– What should recreational players do after a tennis match to avoid muscle soreness and stiffness?
– How can 40+ players keep their flexibility and avoid injuries?
– Which is the most important physical ability that tennis players should pay the most attention to? Is it speed, conditioning, flexibility or else?
– When should static and dynamic stretches be used?
To read all Nathan’s answers click here.

Tennis Coach - Tom AveryTOM AVERY is a lifetime athlete, tennis coach and sports nutritionist.
For the last 40 plus years he has helped hundreds of thousands of tennis players from around the globe.
He is the author of the popular “Consistent Tennis Wins” Series (a total of 8 DVDS aired on The Tennis Channel).
In addition to his very popular DVD series, he has produced nine online tennis courses: Consistent Tennis Wins, Stroke Production For Power And Control, Rock Solid Forehand, Rock Solid Backhand, The Topspin and Slice Factor, Serve Domination, Tenacious Tennis Fitness, Tennis Nutrition Secrets and the recent Consistency Secrets.
Connect with Tom Avery at https://www.ctwacademy.com/

Q: Before a tennis match, what do you usually advise your singles students?
A: To have a goal in mind… it could be finding your opponents weakness and relentlessly attacking that weakness, or something like running for every ball, running as if your life depends on it, or swinging freely and not being tentative… there are many goals players can strive for… the player and coach need to find one for each players needs. If you reached your goal during the match… you win!!! Regardless of the actual score.


Q: Before a tennis match, what do you usually advise your doubles students?
A: Strive to get a high percentage of first serves in, do not be too concerned with power, use spin to increase your control and serve down the middle most of the time. Take enough off your first serve so that you are making 80% first serves. Your opponents are not in attack mode as much with first serves; however when you have to hit a second serve they are. Be the first team to hit a volley, it takes time away from your opponents and forces them to hit low percentage shots.

Q: What is a quick tip for creating power on the Serve?
A: Toss the ball just to the peak of your reach, do not toss the ball higher than your racquet can reach. This will help you generate more racquet head speed at contact… whereas tossing out of your reach can cause your swing to slow down as you wait for a high toss to drop into your hitting zone.

Q: If you were starting to play tennis as a beginner, what would you focus on the most: technique, footwork, hand-eye coordination, consistency or else? Why?
A: All of the above are important but technique is first, it’s your foundation and will determine how consistent you will be. Footwork second, because if you are not balanced with good posture you will make errors even with good technique. Hand-eye and consistency will happen naturally as the player develops.

Q: How should a singles player deal with nerves before a tennis match?
A: Breathe… but make sure you are only breathing through the nose, inhaling and exhaling. Also, sometimes after exhaling hold your breath until you feel a strong urge to inhale, inhale and continue to breathe through your nose ONLY… this will calm you. You can also use this technique during the match.

Additional Q&A with Tom:
– How should a doubles player communicate with his partner who is having a “bad day”?
– What is more important to win matches: technique or tactics?
– What are three things a player should always have in her tennis bag?
– Should players choose to Serve or Return first? Why?
– What two racquet elements are the most important for ball control?
– What are two important aspects a player should look for when watching a professional tennis match?
– Should recreational players try to copy the pros? Why?
– How should players stay focused during the match?
– What is the food that gives you the most energy for a tennis match?
– Would you share the secret to tennis longevity? What do players need to do in order to stay in shape and play tennis well into their senior years?
To read all Tom’s answers click here.

suzanna mcgee - tennis nutritionist and fitnessSUZANNA McGEE is a former Ms. Natural Olympia drug-free bodybuilding champion and currently a competitive tennis player, athletic fitness trainer and writer. She is also a performance enhancement and injury prevention coach, with a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell University.
Suzanna is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) as a Performance Enhancement Specialist and Corrective Exercise Specialist.
Connect with Suzanna McGee at www.tennisfitnesslove.com

Q: If I have a tennis match in the morning, what would you consider a good breakfast for best on-court performance?
A: You want to eat something light that wouldn’t sit in your stomach during the match. It is also very personal how people feel after different meals, so you should experiment a little bit and figure out the best option for you. A bowl of oatmeal with raisins or berries can work for many. Since I transitioned to raw plant-based nutrition, I have learned that a freshly squeezed juice is an amazing energizer before a match or training. I drink 48 oz of a freshly squeezed (non-commercial in the bottle) juice from carrots, apples, red beet, turmeric, and ginger. It is about 600 calories, anti-inflammatory, the ginger gives energy, the red beet help to deliver oxygen. It hydrates you and is super light on the digestion. This is my preferred choice now. A smoothie is another great option (number 2), as well.

Q: For an afternoon match, what would be a good meal before it?
A: You don’t want to eat heavy meals that would sit in your stomach and make you feel heavy. The lunch can be the same as breakfast. You should experiment a little bit to figure out the best option for you. A bowl of oatmeal with raisins or berries can work for many. Since I transitioned to raw plant-based nutrition, I have learned that a freshly squeezed juice is an amazing energizer before a match or training. I drink 48 oz of a freshly squeezed (non-commercial in the bottle) juice from carrots, apples, red beet, turmeric, and ginger. It is about 600 calories, anti-inflammatory, the ginger gives energy, the red beet help to deliver oxygen. It hydrates you and is super light on the digestion. This is my preferred choice now. A smoothie is a number two option too. The difference between the morning match or later during the day match is how many meals you have eaten to that point. Depending on how late your match is, you may need to get in several smaller meals. Make all your meals count and make them a nutritional powerhouse that is easily digestible.

Q: Do you think I should work-out the day before an important match? If yes, what should I emphasise?
A: Yes, you can work out, but don’t do any long high-intensity workouts, or workouts with very heavy weights—especially for your lower body. You need to have your legs fresh and full of power and energy during your match. You can do a slower, less intense cardio session, or lower-intensity weight training, just to stimulate the blood flow to your muscles. You can also focus on balance and proprioception. You should definitely do a flexibility session, with stretching and myofascial release.

Q: What do you recommend I should eat in the evening before a next morning match?
A: I am a believer in eating light. Light is not the same as little, though. You can eat a lot (you need the energy) if your food is easy to digest and leaves your GI tract fast. I would definitely skip meat, chicken, dairy, fats, and other heavy stuff. (A disclaimer: I am now a plant-based athlete, so I don’t eat animal products anymore. But even if I did, I would follow the above recommendation). Eat many “light” carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, sweet potatoes, with nutritionally loaded vegetables: green leafy ones and all the colored spectrum. Don’t add any fats to your meal as it slows down the digestion and your body will work digesting at night instead of resting and repairing. If you are adventurous and want to try something amazing, you could have a freshly squeezed juice from carrots, apples, celery, red beet, ginger, and turmeric. It is easy to digest, so your body will be rested in the morning and you will have a lot of great nutrients and enzymes delivered into your system. If you drink juices, make sure you get your calories in. 48-oz juice is about 600 calories.

Q: What should a serious tennis player have in her/his tennis bag?
A: Besides the rackets, balls, towels, headbands, hats, extra socks, t-shirts, shoes, sunscreens, and all the obvious, you should always carry extra water bottles with you. ALWAYS! You cannot depend on the match location for your water, and you NEVER want to run out and be dehydrated. You can do better without food than without water. The performance goes down even when you don’t feel thirsty yet. Always carry a double amount of water than you think you need. You can always bring it back home. You could also make yourself a freshly squeezed juice from carrots, apples, red beet, turmeric, and ginger and have it with you on the court for immediate access to energy and high-quality nutrients. It is easy to digest and you can sip on it during the match. Bananas, dried fruits, and other quick snacks with a lot of energy should be in your bag for nutritional emergencies. All this was for your stomach, now you also need a rubber band so you can warm-up your shoulders and hips if you need to. Also, you should always carry some kind of myofascial release tool: a lacrosse ball (takes the smallest space), a foam ball, or a firm roller, such as The Grid or Rumble Roller. Use them before the match if you have serious imbalances, or on any other occasion when you want to give your musculoskeletal system some love.

Additional Q&A with Suzanna:
– Food or drinks that tennis players should stay away from before a match?
– What are some of the drinks or snacks that players should consider having at changeover?
– What are your favourite exercises that you do before a match?
– What do you suggest a tennis player should do after the match is over (as far as body recovery)?
– I am low on energy and about to have a tennis match in a couple of hours. What shall I do to feel ready for it?
To read all Suzanna’s answers click here.

jeff salzenstein - online tennis coachJEFF SALZENSTEIN is a former top 100 ATP tennis player and 2 time All-American; high performance tennis coach; expert in peak performance, nutrition, fitness, rehab and motivation. He runs a successful tennis instruction website: https://tennisevolution.com/

Q. How many hours a day the tennis pros practice?
A. 2-3 hours

Q. What is the best meal to eat before a match?
A. Eggs, sourdough toast, oatmeal, fruit

Q. What is the most important point in a tennis match and how would you play it if you were serving? 
A. Break point, serve wide slice in the ad court and come in

Q. What is the biggest source of power on the serve?
A. Loose arm and wrist

Q. What is your string of choice and why?
A. Luxilon, combo of spin and power

Q. Power or placement?
A. Power

Q. Which is better: light racquet or heavy racquet?
A. Light

Additional Q&A with Jeff:
– You win the toss: do you choose to serve or return first; why?
– How early before a match should a tennis player eat?
– What should a tennis player eat during the match and why?
– Is stretching really necessary or just a light warm-up before a match?
– What’s your favourite drink during a match?
– What do you tell yourself when you play a tough opponent?
– What is your favourite tennis grip (brand)?
– What would be the 3 main sources of power on forehand ground-stroke?
– What is your favourite advice for your students before tournaments?
– How should players stay motivated to fight to the end into a match?
– Do you learn more from wins or loses? Why?
– What do you pay attention to when you watch a tennis match?
– How to improve footwork in the shortest time possible?
– What is the conversation between a pro player and his/her coach before a match about?
– What goes through your mind during a match: technique, staying positive, tactics, mistakes, opponent’s weakness etc.?
To read all Jeff’s answers click here.

tim strawn - professional tennis stringerTIM STRAWN is a professional racquet technician with over 30 years of experience.
Tim has traveled and serviced racquets for the best players in the world at Wimbledon (2002-2004), the U.S. Open (2006-2008), as well as other tour events from 2002-2008.
He is one of the original 12 members of the Wilson Tour Services Stringing Team that was formed in 2006. 
His website can be found at www.gssalliance.com

Q: Is there any string out there that is tough as Poly and has feel?
A: No. “Feel” is relative to the player but in this case, poly’s are typically stiff and have very little elongation. When the ball hits the string bed the string stretches. As it stretches it absorbs energy and when it rebounds it returns that energy to the ball. The “stiff” feel players refer to with poly is because the string is not going to elongate at impact. GSS Alliance tests strings for power and tensile strength and we recently tested a Gosen string called Sidewinder. This is a poly-based string but one we believe has a significant amount of polyolefin, a much softer substance. The string has good elongation like standard synthetic gut but is much more durable.

Q: What is the difference between swing weight and a stationary weight of a tennis racket? And which is more important to consider when buying a tennis racket?
A: Stationary weight is the overall weight of a racquet when measured on a scale. Swing weight is a different animal altogether. This is considered a “dynamic” measurement and is what the player feels when striking a ball. It’s the resistance to movement in a circular motion.

Q: I am a doubles player and I need a racquet to help me at the net. What racquet weight should I consider (I am a female player at 5’8″, 3.5 NTRP)?
A: GSS Alliance espouses a rather simple yet basic formula for this. For women it’s 300/300 and men it’s 315/315. This equates to a gram weight of 300 and a swing weight of 300 (315/315 for men) and this is recommended as a starting point. Many players feel they need a lighter racquet for net play when in actuality, they need a tennis lesson to correct their volley technique. You should always use the heaviest racquet possible that you feel comfortable with in all aspects of your game. Weight is your friend when it comes to a tennis racquet.

Q: What kind of racquet should I choose for power?
A: Generally speaking, the heavier the racquet the more power you can generate with it. Power, however, is also relative to the players skills. Some players can generate enormous power with lighter racquets because they can accelerate through the ball quicker. This comes from their exceptional skills in stroke production. Others prefer a heavier racquet but these players typically have great racquet preparation (racquet back early etc) so the weight provides extra power to their shot.

Q: For control, what is the most important: the string’s tension, texture or thickness?
A: Tension is the answer here. If I string your racquet at higher tensions the control will increase but if it’s too high, you’ll have trouble getting any depth on the ball. If I string the same racquet with the same string at a lower tension the string will elongate more providing more of a “trampoline” effect and the ball will fly off of the racquet at greater speeds. Finding the correct balance in tension is the key and other factors must also be considered. Racquet weight, head size, and string pattern (16x19 or 18x20 for example) can have an affect on control.

Additional Q&A with Tim:
– What is the most popular string used by the pro players and why?
– I know I’ll have a different string on my racquet and a different grip size than the racquet I demo; so what aspects should I look for when I demo it?
– I am a beginner; how should I choose the right tennis racquet?
– Is swing weight important and how does it affect my play?
– Small racquet grip or thick grip; which is better?
– Should I consider changing the string tension when switching from hard court to clay court?
– My 9 year old has been playing (for almost 6 months) with an adult size racquet and he likes it. Should I let him continue with the same racquet or get him a more age appropriate one?
– Why do the pros have so many racquets in their bag? Are they any different in tension and/or weight?
– I feel that it is easier for me to play with used balls compared to the new ones that feel heavier and harder to control. Is it bad for my game if I practice with used balls?
– Any advice of what strings I should use for power and control?
– I hit a lot of my balls very short in opponent’s court. Does this have to do with my technique, strings being too tight (62 lbs tension) or else. Also, how can I customise my racquet for effortless deep ground-strokes?
To read all Tim’s answers click here.