Following the end of the UK’s lockdown in spring 2021 as courts and clubs reopened across the country, Sir Andy Murray shared his tips for getting back to tennis after a break – something he knows all about after taking a break for hip surgery in 2018.
I thought it would be useful to give some of the tips I put in place when I returned from my hip surgery, to ensure you can return safely and happily to the game.
1. Take it Slow
After such a long break, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be raring to go and desperate to play matches again. But unfortunately, that’s not the sensible approach (as my team reminded me!).
You’ll need to gradually build up your playing time and the number of times you play each week to prevent injuries. If you have any niggles or health and injury worries, it’s best to check with a doctor first.
2. Be Patient
Your timing may be off and your reactions may be slower after an absence from playing tennis. This will likely mean that you’ll see more errors in your game. Be patient and just try to enjoy the fact you’re back on court. Once you begin to play more regularly again, you’ll quickly see an improvement in reaction times and a reduction in your unforced errors will then follow.
3. Warm Up
Tennis is a game that has lots of dynamic movement and uses a variety of muscles for the wide range of physical demands within the game. Having not played for a while, you’ll be more prone to muscle strains and joint sprains.
Make sure you warm up properly and stretch before you start playing. A gentle jog around the court is a good starting point and then build in some movements like high knees, glute kicks, lunges, shoulder circles and trunk rotations to warm up specific muscle groups and aid joint mobility.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
You cannot underestimate the value of practice. I train six days a week and we repeat drills over and over again, so that in the heat of the moment in a match I can implement the skills I’ve practiced without even thinking.
A ball machine is excellent if you have access to one, as it will send you a perfectly timed ball at the right depth to practice your groundstrokes or volleys. A tennis wall is also great for testing your reaction skills.
If you don’t have access to either of those, set up some targets on the court to aim for and set yourself some goals for your practice sessions, like hitting 20 forehands into the service box.
It may also be worth booking a session with your club coach to ensure you get back into good habits straight away.
5. Stick to the Basics
In your first few sessions, try to stick to the basics and play percentage tennis. Your main aim at this point is to keep the ball in play. Don’t go for winners straight away, as your timing and aim may not be up to speed and it can be frustrating if you miss shots you know you can normally make. Once you get frustrated, you’re more likely to make more errors.
6. Protect Your Body
You may have lost some strength and mobility in your arms and shoulders if you haven’t continued to do any strength work for the past few months. This could leave you at risk of shoulder cuff injuries or tennis elbow.
Return slowly, spend time warming up your shoulders and arms before playing and try to build in a bit of strength training before you go back on court to prepare your body.
I started taking TRR Nutrition’s PRO Advanced Collagen when my hip was really bad – it contains turmeric to reduce inflammation. I continue to take it now to help protect all of my bones and joints.