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Tennis 101: Stretching

Tennis 101: Stretching
Another installment of Tennis 101 from Basin Harbor’s head tennis pro, Erick Collas.

Allot ten to fifteen minutes before you play or practice to stretch. Ten to fifteen minutes of stretching can save you months of recovery from an injury.

One of the priorities in a warm-up, from personal experience, is the calf and the Achilles tendon. I remember my father in his late 30s. At that time, he didn’t stretch much. He ruptured his Achilles and he was in a cast for two or three months, back in the mid 1970s. I also recall two or three incidents in the early 1980s, two gentlemen in their early 50s on the tennis court popped their Achilles. They both described it like someone hit them with a baseball bat. One person was wearing Nike Air tennis shoes that had just come out, and he said it sounded like the air went out of his shoes. When he tried to get up, he just crumbled. The Achilles tendon runs between the back of your calf and your ankles.

You can extend your tennis life by stretching, thus minimizing the pulled muscles and hamstrings that put you off the court for two to three weeks at a time. Remember, this is not stressful stretching, but gentle easy stretches, designed to warm up your muscles. You don’t ever do it until you feel pain. You should do it only until you feel slight pressure. I like to concentrate on the calf, the Achilles, the neck, the shoulder, and the back.

Warm up tips

  • Stand in place and move your head around in a circle for 45 seconds. It stretches the neck and the upper back.
  • Neck: put your right hand over your left ear, and pull it for five seconds. And then your left hand over your right ear, as you pull it there towards your left. Then fold your hands behind your head like you are being handcuffed, in what I call the “jail pose.” Put your head down in front. Then go the opposite direction.
  • Use these next two tips to stretch your Achilles tendons. Keep your right heel down on the ground with your right leg straight, and lean forward. Put your hand on top of the net for support, and lean forward. Do that for about 5-10 seconds.
  • Turn around, put your right foot in front, left heel on the ground, left leg straight, lean forward. Do that for about 5-10 seconds.
  • Jog around the court twice to stretch out the legs. Circle your arms slowly as you jog to warm up your shoulders.
  • Squat down and stand back up. Grab the top of the net for support, while you squat up and down slowly five times. It stretches the hamstrings and the knees.
  • Jump up and down and twist your feet in reverse directions while rotating your upper body in the opposite directions. Twist and turn for 30 seconds. It is the same twisting torso motion that you use to get ready for a forehand or a backhand.
  • Rod Laver taught me another warm up exercise. Kick your right foot to the left, and hop. Then kick your left foot over to the right side. Twist your torso in the opposite direction, from your left foot to your right side, your right foot to your left side and twist your torso in the opposite direction.

Practice swings
In professional tennis, you usually warm up two hours before the match. You don’t see that because they’re on a far-end practice court getting ready for their match. The professionals put out a ball. They’ll just grab a racquet and do the serving motion, making a figure eight. You’ll see them do this motion about maybe 20-30 times. Then they’ll grab a ball and start serving. So they do make shadow swings. Most seniors don’t do this, but they can. If you want to improve your serve, actually emulate the toss and the hit seven or eight times. It gets the muscles ready, just like in golf when you do the practice swing.