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SMASHING IT

TENNIS — Covid has meant groups of limited numbers. So, netballers, footballers, rugby players and basketballs have taken to tennis, where groups of two and a great workout remains a viable option. Singapore is well-placed to support your new hobby, here are the details.

The Covid-19 era has changed a lot of sporting lives. For some it’s meant a permanent shift, for others it may just be a temporary measure, but the move towards Covid-friendly sports from those that groups of two, five or even eight simply can’t accommodate is real and one of the key beneficiaries is tennis.

As a non-contact sport played among two people (or four at most in a doubles match) the demand for tennis courts in Singapore has gone through the roof. Many of my footballing friends have made the switch and although it remains to be seen whether they’ll stay loyal to the sport once football becomes playable again, it’s certainly capturing their imagination now.

As your ambitions turn to beating your best pal, climbing up the ladder you’ve generated on WhatsApp or going deep into your club’s tournament, you’ll have realised that much of your improvement comes from developing technique. It’s a great game to mull over and consider carefully how to stop making those unforced errors. Lessons are also an option but at $100 a time for a one-on-one hour, they don’t come cheaply.

The other aspect, one that benefits all sports performance, is physical fitness and The Gym Pod can go a long way to helping you reach your goals.

Squats are a super lower-body exercise and goblet squats are a variation that activates not only the glutes and quadriceps, but also muscles in the core and arms, making it a well-rounded routine for tennis players. Holding a kettle bell or a dumbbell with both hands up against your chest, just squat down nice and easily, making sure you stick that butt out, keeping your back as straight as possible. All the work should be undertaken below the waist, your back should be doing as little as possible. 

Similar but also quite different is a lunge. Those of you who’ve recently been forced through Covid to take up squash, will know how stiff your glutes become the next day. Tennis players don’t need to lunge quite as much, as there’s more time to get your feet in place to make the shot. But it’s still a movement that’s needed, especially at the net where you’ve cut down your reaction time by getting closer to your opponent. Walking lunges are always a fabulous way to engage the thighs and rear end, but lateral lunges really come into their own when training for tennis.

Again, as with the squats, you can increase the level of difficulty by holding a dumbbell or kettlebell, but go without weights at first to make sure you are comfortable with the movement and can maintain good stability. 

Standing up straight, keep your left leg rooted to the floor while lifting and pushing out your right leg sideways with one sizeable step. Move your centre of gravity along with your right leg and as it lands, bend the knee, keeping that left leg straight. Push yourself back upwards and bring the right leg back to the centre, before repeating the movement on the other side with your left leg. 

In switching your sport from say, football to tennis, you’ll find that injuries come in whole new areas of the body. I’ve found that shoulder problems have been an issue, so working the rotator cuff, which are the four muscles and tendons that enable your arm to roll fluidly in its shoulder socket, is time well spent.

The best way to prevent rotator cuff injuries in tennis is to strengthen those four key muscles. Lying on your side, supporting your head with your left hand (as if you were watching TV on the floor), rest your upper right arm along the side of your body. Extend the lower right arm outwards away from your body while clasping a lightweight dumbbell.

With a starting position that sees your lower arm at right angles to your body and parallel to the floor, keep the upper arm resting along your body, but rotate it 90 degrees until you’re holding the dumbbell up towards the ceiling. As your upper arm is fully supported on your body, all of the work should be focussed on the area at the rear of your shoulder, strengthening that area where backhands, forehands and service movements really start to tax your muscles.

Above all, remember to stay hydrated, tennis may predominantly be a shuffling sport at the amateur level, but it’s tough to get three sets completed within two hours and that’s a lot of perspiration in the humidity of Singapore.

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