Getting ready physically starts, as with everything, the night before.
Eat a good dinner. Chicken and brown rice is a great meal to set yourself up with. Along with the carbs and protein drink a lot of water. Get a good nights sleep.
As soon as you wake up, drink some water and start gently stretching and flexing muscles. Keep this up through the whole morning and combine it with some active visualisation. Gentle passing movements, arm swing movements, block movements etc.
Drinking water: If it’s going to be a hot day drink a liter of water within an hour of waking up, and then keep drinking about 200 ml every 30 minutes. This might seems like you are drinking crazy amounts of water, but keep in mind that it takes about 4 hours between when you drink water and when the fluid makes its way to where it needs to go to rehydrate you. So if you get half way through the day and realise that you are getting dehydrated, it’s too late to do anything about it…
Eat a big breakfast, without any sugar. Natural sugar like fruit is OK, but save the extra sugar hits (I.e. energy drinks etc) for in the game.
When you get to the beach, stay relaxed and loose. It’s OK to have a hit, pepper around a bit but keep it short. When you are waiting around before your first game, stay out of the sun and stay relaxed. Avoid walking around, and save every ounce of energy. Remember that if you go deep into a tournament, at some point you will probably get tired. Every ounce of energy that you don’t waste in the morning and between games is going to help you at the end of the day.
Tactical and strategic preparation
Ideally you should enter every game with at least two game plans, preferably three, and hopefully you will only need one of them. The second plan is a back up if the first does not work and the third is a back up if the second doesn’t work.
Here is an example of a plan going into a match where you know the opponent well. This opponent is a classic blocker/defender pair. The blocker is tall and hits hard, the defender is smaller and plays a lot of shots.
Plan A – Serve the taller player and move the block around. Our back court defender should stay for the hard hit ball. We plan to make blocks and digs from hard attacks.
If that doesn’t work…
Plan B – Serve tough at the smaller guy and look for opportunities for our blocker to drop back from the net.
If that doesn’t work…
Plan C – Bomb Aces! or go back to plan A or B but serve much harder.
This plan is pretty basic, and is also a good plan to use against a team that you have never seen before.
There are a few important things to remember about the game plan.
Always have one!
- If you are not winning, make sure you change to plan B early enough to give it a chance to work
- If you are winning, don’t change it!
- Keep thinking throughout the match, and if you think of a better plan, then change to that.
Before the first point
So here you are on court in the warm up period moments before the first serve. You are feeling relaxed because you know you have a bag full of bananas and sports drink, you are feeling fresh and energetic because you slept so well, ate a lot of carbs and protein the night before and had a great breakfast.
Now for the final touch. You need to start the first point as if you have been in the game for 15 minutes already. So once you have warmed up, and peppered (played the ball) with your partner as usual, spend and extra 30 seconds peppering at 100% intensity. Getting into a good low defensing position, hitting hard (but with control), diving for every ball and chasing everything down. This should raise your heart beat and give you a little leg burn.
Then go through your hitting warm up. Your body should be petty warm, so jump hard from the first hit, but hit the ball at 60% – 70% for the first one or two tyo make sure you get a really nice contact from the beginning. Concentrate on clean, high contact.
Hit all your shots. Hit two line shots, two cut shots, then two deep hard balls (70%) and then a couple of hard line balls (70%). If you miss both line shots to start with, resist the temptation to hit another 10 line shots trying to get it right. Just move on to the cut shots, and then get back to line shots later in the warm up.
Gradually hit the ball harder until the last couple are at 100% game speed.
Be careful about the conditions! If it’s really hot, shorten your warm up. Be careful not to go too long and use too much energy. Later in the day, when you get to your third or fourth match, your warm up should get shorter. You won’t need to “find your touch” so much, because you have already played a some games.
And lastly, make sure you leave some time for a couple of serves.
What if I have a bad warm up?
If you aren’t feeling the ball in warm up, just go with it. It is not important, and usually trying to “find your touch” is counter productive. “Finding touch” or finding the “zone” is not something that most people can do conciously or consistently. It happens though hard work and patience. So if you feel like you are mishitting a lot of balls, or mistiming your jump, Don’t Panic! It happens to everybody, and part of becoming a great player is learning to win even when you don’t feel like you are playing your best.
If you stay focused and keep putting in 100% effort you will start to find your touch as the match progresses.
Listen to this interview with Rafael Nadal after a match against Djokovic. After the first 40 seconds he starts talking about having a bad warm up and starting the match without the best confidence and importantly, how he found his touch after the first set. It happens to the best of them.
One last tip
Put your first serve in!
Do you have a pre-match routine? Tell us about it!