In my opinion and without any dilemma tennis is the most diverse sport with so many uncontrollable situations in the modern sport today, period!
I know this is a “heavy” statement!
Throughout my career, I was fortunate to work with athletes from different sports and disciplines, European football, basketball, mixed martial arts, alpine skiing, and handball. However, it was before I started my journey in the world of tennis.
But how I came to this conclusion? After more than ten years in junior and high-level professional tennis, I came up with the list of 8 fundamental reasons that make a massive difference from the other sports.
There are also different kinds of clay courts, some of them are more slippery, and the ball is not bouncing too much. Another type of clay could be a harder one, where the ball can jump a lot higher. Obviously, in this situation type of play or shot selection can be different for different clay courts.
The same is true for other surfaces, a hard court in Indian Wells is different than ones in Miami, and these too are back-to-back tournaments, so the players that can adjust their game faster to the new conditions have the advantage.
2. Not every tournament is played with the same balls
There are different types of balls used in tennis. To name a few, Babolat, Wilson, Head, Slazenger, Tecnifibre, Dunlop, Penn… Between all these balls, there are some differences in pressure, type of material they are built. All of this dictates how bouncy they are, how durable. Some types of balls are being consumed faster and because of that are becoming slower, which influences the match.
3. In most of the matches, you don’t know the exact match time start. Moreover, a game can last from 90 minutes up to several hours
In many situations, during the evening of the day before you find out tomorrow’s schedule. Moreover, if the match is scheduled as third after 11 AM, you can enter the court at 2 PM and 5 PM depending on how long the two games before yours will last. I had numerous situations where we did an entire warm-up match routine, but suddenly match is prolonged for another set or more, and you need to wait another hour or more to warm up again.
4. Players matchup
First-round you can play against a right-handed player with the big serve and attacking style of play. Then, if you win, you can compete against a completely different type of player in the second round. An example could be a left-handed, good returner baseline type of player where you will have to play many rallies.
5. Different stadiums
Here I’m not talking about the actual tennis court dimension. You can play at the big stadium with a lot of space around the court and on the smaller court where there is not so much space behind the baseline and sidelines. Different type of stadiums creates an entirely different feeling on the court and sometimes can be advantageous. For example, if you are a player with a big serve, you prefer to play on a smaller court, because like this, your opponent can’t go far behind the baseline during his returning game.
6. Weather conditions
2016 I was a strength and conditioning coach for Milos Raonic, a powerful 1.96m, 95kg player with an aggressive attacking style. He played the first round of the 2016 French Open against Albert Ramos Vinolas, a clay-court specialist from Spain. Three days before the start of the tournament was raining, and on match day, it was cloudy and cold with humidity. In these conditions, balls are heavy and slow, it is more difficult to move on clay that is so wet, and basically, making a winner is almost impossible. Raonic was the absolute favorite, but he had no chance in these conditions with that type of player. He lost quickly 62 64 64 in 2h20’. The following day was a sunny day, with a temperature higher by at least five ˘C. If the match was scheduled for that day, we were all convinced that our player will win because of different conditions more suitable for his style of play.
7. No coaching allowed
As soon as you step on the court, you are on your own. There are no time-outs, half times where you can seek advice. Players essentially have to figure things out themselves. It makes the game a truly one-on-one experience. If an umpire does catch a coach giving instructions to a player during a match, which will lead to a coaching violation, and the player will receive a warning.
8. Hectic travel schedule
I’m aware that players are many days on the road in many sports, but in the world of tennis, all this traveling is brought to another level. First of all, you never know when your next day for travel is. After the player is out of the tournament, the first person he needs to contact is his travel agent. Depending on the time of day, next destination, travel costs, the players know when the next day of travel is. In so many situations, already after two hours after the match, you are already preparing your bags and heading to the airport.
Moreover, in many situations, players are changing time zones without having appropriate time to adjust their inner clock. You can change six or more time zones and having only 3-4 days to be ready for another tournament.
I believe this list backs up my statement about why tennis is today the most challenging sport to compete in. Because all of these reasons coaching in the tennis world must be adjusted to the challenges player is facing on the court. Different surfaces need a slightly different approach to the training. One example could be wrist-elbow-shoulder extra preventive work where the next tournament is played with “heavier” balls.