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David Whiteside and Machar Reid

Purpose:

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.

Methods:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusion:

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.

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Alistair P. Murphy, Rob Duffield, Aaron Kellett and Machar Reid

Purpose:

High-performance tennis environments aim to prepare athletes for competitive demands through simulated-match scenarios and drills. With a dearth of direct comparisons between training and tournament demands, the current investigation compared the perceptual and technical characteristics of training drills, simulated match play, and tournament matches.

Methods:

Data were collected from 18 high-performance junior tennis players (gender: 10 male, 8 female; age 16 ± 1.1 y) during 6 ± 2 drill-based training sessions, 5 ± 2 simulated match-play sessions, and 5 ± 3 tournament matches from each participant. Tournament matches were further distinguished by win or loss and against seeded or nonseeded opponents. Notational analysis of stroke and error rates, winners, and serves, along with rating of perceived physical exertion (RPE) and mental exertion was measured postsession.

Results:

Repeated-measures analyses of variance and effect-size analysis revealed that training sessions were significantly shorter in duration than tournament matches (P < .05, d = 1.18). RPEs during training and simulated matchplay sessions were lower than in tournaments (P > .05; d = 1.26, d = 1.05, respectively). Mental exertion in training was lower than in both simulated match play and tournaments (P > .05; d = 1.10, d = 0.86, respectively). Stroke rates during tournaments exceeded those observed in training (P < .05, d = 3.41) and simulated-match-play (P < .05, d = 1.22) sessions. Furthermore, the serve was used more during tournaments than simulated match play (P < .05, d = 4.28), while errors and winners were similar independent of setting (P > .05, d < 0.80).

Conclusions:

Training in the form of drills or simulated match play appeared to inadequately replicate tournament demands in this cohort of players. Coaches should be mindful of match demands to best prescribe sessions of relevant duration, as well as internal (RPE) and technical (stroke rate) load, to aid tournament preparation.

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Rob Duffield, Alistair Murphy, Aaron Kellett and Machar Reid

Purpose:

To investigate the effects of combining cold-water immersion (CWI), full-body compression garments (CG), and sleep-hygiene recommendations on physical, physiological, and perceptual recovery after 2-a-day on-court training and match-play sessions.

Methods:

In a crossover design, 8 highly trained tennis players completed 2 sessions of on-court tennis-drill training and match play, followed by a recovery or control condition. Recovery interventions included a mixture of 15 min CWI, 3 h of wearing full-body CG, and following sleep-hygiene recommendations that night, while the control condition involved postsession stretching and no regulation of sleeping patterns. Technical performance (stroke and error rates), physical performance (accelerometry, countermovement jump [CMJ]), physiological (heart rate, blood lactate), and perceptual (mood, exertion, and soreness) measures were recorded from each on-court session, along with sleep quantity each night.

Results:

While stroke and error rates did not differ in the drill session (P > .05, d < 0.20), large effects were evident for increased time in play and stroke rate in match play after the recovery interventions (P > .05, d > 0.90). Although accelerometry values did not differ between conditions (P > .05, d < 0.20), CMJ tended to be improved before match play with recovery (P > .05, d = 0.90). Furthermore, CWI and CG resulted in faster postsession reductions in heart rate and lactate and reduced perceived soreness (P > .05, d > 1.00). In addition, sleep-hygiene recommendations increased sleep quantity (P > .05, d > 2.00) and maintained lower perceived soreness and fatigue (P < .05, d > 2.00).

Conclusions:

Mixed-method recovery interventions (CWI and CG) used after tennis sessions increased ensuing time in play and lower-body power and reduced perceived soreness. Furthermore, sleep-hygiene recommendations helped reduce perceived soreness.

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David Whiteside, Bruce Elliott, Brendan Lay and Machar Reid

The importance of the flat serve in tennis is well documented, with an abundance of research evaluating the service technique of adult male players. Comparatively, the female and junior serves have received far less attention. Therefore, the aims of this study were to quantify the flat serve kinematics in elite prepubescent, pubescent, and postpubescent female tennis players. Full body, racket, and ball kinematics were derived using a 22-camera Vicon motion capture system. Racket velocity was significantly lower in the prepubescent group than in the two older groups. In generating racket velocity, the role of the serving arm appears to become more pronounced after the onset of puberty, whereas leg drive and “shoulder-over-shoulder” rotation mature even later in development. These factors are proposed to relate to strength deficits and junior players’ intentions to reduce the complexity of the skill. Temporally, coupling perception (cues from the ball) and action (body movements) are less refined in the prepubescent serve, presumably reducing the “rhythm” (and dynamism) of the service action. Practically, there appears scope for equipment scaling to preserve kinematic relevance between the junior and senior serve and promote skill acquisition.

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Alistair P. Murphy, Rob Duffield, Aaron Kellett and Machar Reid

Purpose:

Given the travel that punctuates junior tennis development, an understanding of the changes in fitness owing to touring and the association between training loads (TLs) and fitness on return is vital. The authors investigated physical-capacity changes from pretour to posttour, determining if those changes were related to the TL of athletes on tour.

Methods:

Thirty junior athletes completed fitness testing before and after 4-wk tours. Testing included double-leg countermovement jump (CMJ), dominant single-leg and nondominant single-leg CMJ, speed (5, 10, 20 m), modified 5-0-5 agility (left and right), 10 × 20-m repeated-sprint ability (RSA), and multistage fitness tests. Repeated-measures ANOVAs determined physical-capacity change, with effect-size analysis establishing the magnitude of change. To avoid regression toward the mean, a 1/3-split technique was implemented for comparative analysis (high to low TLs).

Results:

Moderate effects (d = 0.50–0.70) for reductions of up to 3.6% in 5-, 10-, and 20-m speeds were observed. However, all remaining changes were only of trivial to small magnitude (d < 0.40). Closer analysis of the interaction between TL and physical capacities (1/3-split) revealed that subjects who completed the greatest amount of total and tennis TL returned with a greater decline in speed and aerobic capacities (d > 0.80). Furthermore, it was observed that match load dictates on- and off-court TL, with an increase in matches won understandably stunting exposure to off-court TL.

Conclusions:

Specific training should be prescribed on tour to maintain speed characteristics over a 4-wk international tour. On-tour training schedules should be carefully monitored to maximize specific TL exposure after losses on tour.

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Alistair P. Murphy, Rob Duffield, Aaron Kellett and Machar Reid

Purpose:

To investigate the discrepancy between coach and athlete perceptions of internal load and notational analysis of external load in elite junior tennis.

Methods:

Fourteen elite junior tennis players and 6 international coaches were recruited. Ratings of perceived exertion (RPEs) were recorded for individual drills and whole sessions, along with a rating of mental exertion, coach rating of intended session exertion, and athlete heart rate (HR). Furthermore, total stroke count and unforced-error count were notated using video coding after each session, alongside coach and athlete estimations of shots and errors made. Finally, regression analyses explained the variance in the criterion variables of athlete and coach RPE.

Results:

Repeated-measures analyses of variance and interclass correlation coefficients revealed that coaches significantly (P < .01) underestimated athlete session RPE, with only moderate correlation (r = .59) demonstrated between coach and athlete. However, athlete drill RPE (P = .14; r = .71) and mental exertion (P = .44; r = .68) were comparable and substantially correlated. No significant differences in estimated stroke count were evident between athlete and coach (P = .21), athlete notational analysis (P = .06), or coach notational analysis (P = .49). Coaches estimated significantly greater unforced errors than either athletes or notational analysis (P < .01). Regression analyses found that 54.5% of variance in coach RPE was explained by intended session exertion and coach drill RPE, while drill RPE and peak HR explained 45.3% of the variance in athlete session RPE.

Conclusion:

Coaches misinterpreted session RPE but not drill RPE, while inaccurately monitoring error counts. Improved understanding of external- and internal-load monitoring may help coach–athlete relationships in individual sports like tennis avoid maladaptive training.

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Alistair P. Murphy, Rob Duffield, Aaron Kellett and Machar Reid

Purpose:

Planning tennis sessions accentuating physical development requires an understanding of training load (TL). The aims were to describe the external and internal TL of drills and analyze relationships between ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), TL, and other measures.

Methods:

Fourteen elite-level junior tennis athletes completed 259 individual drills. Six coaches helped devise classifications for all drills: recovery/defensive, open pattern, accuracy, 2-on-1 open, 2-on-1 net play, closed technical, point play, and match play. Notational analysis on stroke and error rates was performed postsession. Drill RPE and mental exertion were collected postdrill, while heart rate (HR) was recorded continuously.

Results:

Recovery/defensive, open pattern, and point play were significantly greater than closed technical drills (P < .05) for RPE and mental exertion, as were accuracy drills and match play (P < .05). Recovery/defensive, open-pattern, accuracy, and 2-on-1 open drills had higher stroke rates than match play (P < .05). Error rates of closed technical drills were significantly higher than for open pattern, 2-on-1 drills, point play, and match play (P < .05). No HR differences were observed (P > .05) between categories. Substantial correlations existed for drill RPE and TL with mental exertion (r > .62) for several categories. TL was substantially correlated with total strokes (r > .65), while HR and stroke and error rates were in slight to moderate agreement with RPE and TL (r < .51).

Conclusions:

Recovery/defensive drills are highest in physiological stress, making them ideal for maximizing physicality. Recovery/defensive drills compromised training quality, eliciting high error rates. In contrast, 2-on-1 net-play drills provided the lowest error rates, potentially appropriate for error-amelioration practice. Open-pattern drills were characterized by significantly higher stroke rates, suggesting congruence with high-repetition practice. Finally, with strong relationships between physical and mental perception, mental exertion may complement currently used monitoring strategies (TL and RPE).

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David Whiteside, Olivia Cant, Molly Connolly and Machar Reid

Context:

Quantifying external workload is fundamental to training prescription in sport. In tennis, global positioning data are imprecise and fail to capture hitting loads. The current gold standard (manual notation) is time intensive and often not possible given players’ heavy travel schedules.

Purpose:

To develop an automated stroke-classification system to help quantify hitting load in tennis.

Methods:

Nineteen athletes wore an inertial measurement unit (IMU) on their wrist during 66 video-recorded training sessions. Video footage was manually notated such that known shot type (serve, rally forehand, slice forehand, forehand volley, rally backhand, slice backhand, backhand volley, smash, or false positive) was associated with the corresponding IMU data for 28,582 shots. Six types of machine-learning models were then constructed to classify true shot type from the IMU signals.

Results:

Across 10-fold cross-validation, a cubic-kernel support vector machine classified binned shots (overhead, forehand, or backhand) with an accuracy of 97.4%. A second cubic-kernel support vector machine achieved 93.2% accuracy when classifying all 9 shot types.

Conclusions:

With a view to monitoring external load, the combination of miniature inertial sensors and machine learning offers a practical and automated method of quantifying shot counts and discriminating shot types in elite tennis players.

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Danielle T. Gescheit, Stuart J. Cormack, Machar Reid and Rob Duffield

Purpose:

To determine how consecutive days of prolonged tennis match play affect performance, physiological, and perceptual responses.

Methods:

Seven well-trained male tennis players completed 4-h tennis matches on 4 consecutive days. Pre- and postmatch measures involved tennis-specific (serve speed and accuracy), physical (20-m sprint, countermovement jump [CMJ], shoulder-rotation maximal voluntary contraction, isometric midthigh pull), perceptual (Training Distress Scale, soreness), and physiological (creatine kinase [CK]) responses. Activity profile was assessed by heart rate, 3D load (accumulated accelerations measured by triaxial accelerometers), and rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Statistical analysis compared within- and between-days values. Changes (± 90% confidence interval [CI]) ≥75% likely to exceed the smallest important effect size (0.2) were considered practically important.

Results:

3D load reduced on days 2 to 4 (mean effect size ± 90% CI –1.46 ± 0.40) and effective playing time reduced on days 3 to 4 (–0.37 ± 0.51) compared with day 1. RPE did not differ and total points played only declined on day 3 (–0.38 ± 1.02). Postmatch 20-m sprint (0.79 ± 0.77) and prematch CMJ (–0.43 ± 0.27) performance declined on days 2 to 4 compared with prematch day 1. Although serve velocity was maintained, compromised postmatch serve accuracy was evident compared with prematch day 1 (0.52 ± 0.58). CK increased each day, as did ratings of muscle soreness and fatigue.

Conclusions:

Players reduced external physical loads, through declines in movement, over 4 consecutive days of prolonged competitive tennis. This may be affected by tactical changes and pacing strategies. Alongside this, impairments in sprinting and jumping ability, perceptual and biochemical markers of muscle damage, and reduced mood states may be a function of neuromuscular and perceptual fatigue.

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Amity Campbell, Leon Straker, David Whiteside, Peter O’Sullivan, Bruce Elliott and Machar Reid

Adolescent tennis players are at risk for low back pain (LBP). Recent research has demonstrated a potential mechanical etiology during serves; however, groundstrokes have also been suggested to load this region. Therefore, this study compared lumbar mechanics between players with and without a history of LBP during open and square stance tennis forehands and backhands. Nineteen elite, adolescent, male tennis players participated, 7 with a history of recurrent disabling LBP and 12 without. Differences in three-dimensional lumbar kinetics and kinematics were compared between pain/no pain groups and groundstrokes using linear mixed models (P < .01). There were no significant differences between pain/no pain groups. Relative to a right-handed player, groundstroke comparisons revealed that forehands had greater racquet velocity, greater lumbar right lateral flexion force, as well as upper lumbar extension/rightward rotation and lower lumbar right rotation/lateral flexion movements that were closer to or further beyond end of range than backhands. Backhands required upper lumbar leftward rotation that was beyond end range, while forehands did not. Given that players typically rotated near to their end of range during the backswing of both forehands and backhands, independent of pain, groundstrokes may contribute to the cumulative strain linked to LBP in tennis players.