With a view to informing athlete preparation leading into tournament play, this study examined external hitting and movement workloads during the first week of the 2012–2016 Australian Open tournaments.
Using Hawk-Eye, on-court movement and stroke data were captured for 39 players (21 women, 18 men) during the first 4 rounds of singles competition. Hitting and movement workloads were compared between sexes and rounds of competition.
On average, men traversed approximately 4 km greater distance and hit 785 more shots than women hit across the first 4 rounds of the Australian Open. Women hit significantly more first serves, forehand returns, and backhand groundstrokes per game than men did. Total distance covered per game did not exhibit a significant sex effect, although men covered a significantly greater proportion of that distance at speeds greater than 3 m/s. Game-level hitting and movement workloads, and effective playing time, increased significantly between rounds 1 and 4 of the tournament in both sexes.
When preparing athletes for competition, tennis practitioners should be aware that men may need to withstand aggregated hitting and movement (specifically, high-speed exertion) workloads that are 52% and up to 281% greater than women, respectively. Moreover, the evidence demonstrated that these workloads increased as players progressed deeper into the tournament. These novel insights can be used to improve the specificity of training prescription and physical-testing protocols in professional tennis.