About Us

CAtennis is a passionate discussion for serious tennis players, parents and coaches looking for something different. No talk about technique, no talk about useless theory, no gimmicks; just practical advice from first-hand experience on how to improve your tennis. Kick back, drink the content, bounce ideas, and pitch articles (or friend us on Facebook).

Unless otherwise noted, all articles are authored by the founders of CAtennis.  Enjoy!


Entries in Games (3)


Training the Body's 3 Energy Systems

I would like to thank Ray Brown (Director of EASI Academy, Houston, TX; contributor to MidAtlantic Match Point, TennisONE, Procompare tennis and Tennis World USA) for piquing our interest in this topic. On an unrelated forum, Mr. Brown challenged contributors to (1) identify the three energy systems of the human body; (2) determine how each system is best suited for a particular tennis strategy; and (3) outline how to efficiently develop each system.

From our research - and bearing in mind that we discarded our lab coats, protractors and test tubes exactly 0.34 seconds after receiving our respective college diplomas - it appears that the three types of energy systems are as follows: ATP-PC; Glycolytic; and Oxidative.

1. ATP-PC: anaerobic energy system that utilizes ATP (as in Adenosine Triphosphate - a nucleotide that performs many essential roles in the cell including providing energy for cellular activities) to create energy. When this process takes place, ATP is broken down into ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate). The body then has to add phosphocreatine (PC) to the ADP in order to form ATP. This chemical energy source is used by living things almost like a battery - for short bursts of high-intensity work lasting approximately 10 seconds or less; think "maxing" in the weight room. In terms of tennis, this is the system that would support your body's energy needs in high intensity points of short duration: e.g., serve and volleys.

2. Glycolytic (Lactic Acid System): this system utilizes glucose (or carbohydrates stored in the muscle) to create ATP for energy. In this system, six-carbon sugars are split to three-carbon compounds with subsequent release of energy. Glycolysis can happen under anaerobic and aerobic conditions. However, because of the duration needed to break down glucose to form lactic or pyruvic acid (10 separate reactions), it is the system used for relatively short periods of high-intensity work lasting only a few minutes - think a set of circuit training. After a few minutes of work, the body accumulates lactic acid to the point where pain and fatigue (accumulation of acid breaks down the muscle) will begin to affect performance. For tennis players, this is the main source of eneregy. Most points are won and lost in bursts lasting anywhere between 30 seconds to 1 minute (more than ATP-PC but less than Oxidative). With a short rest break, the work will have to be repeated.

3. Oxidative (Aerobic System): this is an aerobic energy system where the body utilizes carbohydrates, fats and proteins to generate ATP for energy. This a complex system which relies on the circulatory system to supply oxygen. Although slow to kick in, it is the primary system used for long-term, low-to-moderate-intensity work lasting more than just a few minutes - think marathon runners. Although it's unlikely that tennis players will be called to rely on this system as a primary source of energy, it is foreseeable that under some circumstances - extremely long matches which rely mostly on endurance (extremely long points) rather than power - it may be a factor. However, we are "endurance animals" and, therefore, we should focus more on things at which we do not excel than building up the support system that we already master, The limits of endurance exercise, Basic Res. Cardiol. 2006 Sep. ("A skeletal design which favours running and walking, including the greatest ratio of leg length to body weight of any mammal; the ability to sweat and so to exercise vigorously in the heat; and greater endurance than all land mammals other than the Alaskan Husky, indicates that humans evolved as endurance animals").

A good training system will focus on developing each energy system. The first system is trained by including lots of short but high intensity drills into the practice. Think, for example, serving at 95%-100% of your speed and bolting towards the net in a quick sprint. Or, alternatively, perform 2-3 shot combos at maximum power and intensity. The player performs a lot of these sets but is given adequate time to recover. Some nutritionists would advise the post-workout ingestion of creatine (natural or supplement) along with simple sugars to rebuild the body's PC storages. The second system would be trained by performing repetitive, medium-intensity drills, lasting anywhere from 1 minute to 3 minutes. Utilize figure-8s, corners or side-to-sides (now you know why pros favor this drill). Again, adequate rest is given between sets in order to allow the body to recover. You rebuild this system by ingesting protein (amino acid leucine), glutamine, Vitamin C and water. To train the third system, you want to include drills that last anywhere from 20-40 minutes (depending on the level of the player). Although these drills would be of relatively low physical intensity (e.g. cross-courts, down-the-lines), the players should "suck in" sufficient oxygen in order for the oxidative process to commence. Players should look for slightly elevated but rhythmic breathing to ensure that enough oxygen is being ingested. If possible, coaches should develop training regimens where the boundaries of all three systems are being pushed beyond the player's comfort zones.

Nevertheless, since most points are played within the ATP-PC and Glycolytic range, a competitive player who has mastered the basics of the various strokes should spend the majority of his practices trying to improve those 2 systems. Unfortunately, a lot of players spend an inordinate amount of time working on stationary drills (which may kickstart the aerobic energy system) that have no effect on increasing the threshold of the two main energy systems for this type of an activity.


Serve and Volley Play

ANTONY: "These many then shall die, their names are prick'd" (Modern Translation: These many men then shall die; their names are checked on the list). Julius Caesar (ACT IV; Scene 1) by William Shakespeare. In this scene, Antony, Octavius and Lepidus have banded together in a counter-conspiracy to destroy the men who killed Caesar. The men pick certain people who must die, including the brother of Lepidus. They are sacrificing even their loved ones in order to achieve their desired goals.  

Great! What does this have to do with tennis and, specifically, the Serve and Volley Play?! When embarking on a serve and volley gamestyle you have to completely change your attitude towards tennis. For example, where winners and "forced" erros are rare in a baseline-to-baseline exchange, they are far more prevalent when one of the players is at the net. In other words, you don't get many second chances to scramble when you're at the net. As a serve-and-volleyer (or attacking player) you are simply going to have to become accustomed to seeing balls go by you, having the opponent force some errors from you and, perhaps, even hitting you. However, you have to believe that simply by being at the net, the percentages will slip in your favor thereby putting you in a better position to win the match. Even if you're 51%-49%, that's still sufficient room for you to win the match. Serve-and-volleying is about taking time away from your opponent and elciting more errors from the opponent than passing shots or shots that force errors on your behalf. Therefore, keep coming in for as long as you are winning more points than you're losing. The missed volleyes and half-volleyes as well as your opponent's passing shots should "slide off" you as water on teflon. Don't let lost points get to you. Unfortunately, a lot of juniors see balls going by them once or twice and, thereafter, refrain from coming in altogether because they're thinking that they are doing something wrong. Initially, that may be the case but with more practice you will be much better at "reading" the opponent's shots. For example, you will notice how certain grips, footwork, balance and preparation results in certain shots. Then, next time you see these movements, you will be in a better position to anticipate. You will also be better at placing your serves, mixing them up as well as navigating the mid-court transition area. These are things that will help you with the rest of your game even if you remain, for the most part, a baseliner. 

The only real way to become good at attacking is by doing it repeatedely. No, one workout a month is simply not good enough. If you want to improve this dimension of your game you (as a 14+ year old player) are going to have to set aside 6-8 weeks of serious serve-and-volley development. Work on volleys, swinging volleys, pick-up shots, stab volleys, reflex volleys, volley-overhead combination, chip-and-charge plays, etc. all with the mindset of being aggressive. If you're "in season", try to use the S-and-V strategy in earlier rounds against weaker opponents. Alternatively, seek to play smaller tournaments so that you get to use this play in more matches. The goal is not to become a serve-and-volley player (although there's nothing wrong with that if it's in your heart) but to simply become an expert at this play. Then, you can still play your "game" but you can use the attacking play once or twice a game (more/less) to mix things up.

In this regard, I recommend playing a lot of practice points where all you do is serve and volley. Divide the receiver's service box into two halves and practice playing points (up to 11, 15 and 21) where you serve only in one of these halves. Then, change it up and serve in the other half. When you become good at picking up on the opponent's returns, leave the court-dividers but serve anywhere. The goal is to start seeing HOW your opponent RESPONDS based on the placement/spin/pace of your serve. Remember, humans are pattern-creatures. We tend to do what's comfortable when faced with a situation that's even slightly out of the ordinary. By repeating these points, you will become more adept at discerning the opponent's return patterns and movement. Again, it's practice so don't get discouraged at seeing returns go by you. Go forward like "the Russians to Berlin" (i.e., forget about the sigh-seeing). Break some eggs and sacrifice some "loved ones" so that you can achieve greatness down the road. 





Steal This Drill: Slice Backhands and Volleys

Here is another great drill for you to practice with your friends or coach (preferably the former). This drill involves volleys and slices - two strokes that are not often mastered by today's youth. If you want to become a great player, it is important to practice being multi-dimensional. Once you relegate yourself to a certain game style, a good opponent will be able to take you out of your comfort zone. However, if you have additional tricks in the bag to fall back upon, the opponent will have a more difficult time getting to you.

With the foregoing in mind, the drill is as follows: 1 player at the net; 1 player at the baseline. The baseline player gets to cover one half (his backhand half) only. The player at the net must cover his whole singles court. The baseline player can only hit slice backhands (including chip-lobs) but the volley player cannot hit any winners (i.e. she must move the baseline player around in the half-court with deep or angle volleys). At first blush, it seems like it would be a simple game, however, as the baseline player's slice develops, his shots will be more difficult to handle for the volleyer. The perfect slices will skim the net and go fairly close to the sidelines (without missing) (image #2). The baseline player should seek to move his opponent around with these knifing backhands and break down the volleyers legs. The players can play baseline games up to 11, 15 or 21 and then switch roles. This is a great drill to incorporate in your 1-on-1 practices outside of lessons (Note: drill can also be done 2-on-1 with two players at the net). Remember, don't wait for a coach to force-feed you information. Take accountability for your own development.