A winning warm-up vs. winning the warm-up

Over the past month of participating in practice and league matches, and experiencing a few interesting warm-up situations, I decided to do a bit of research regarding the aspects of the five- to 10-minute warm-up before match play begins.

I feel the easiest way to achieve a winning warm-up is to think "rally." As defined by Merriam-Webster, "rally," as in tennis is: "a series of shots interchanged between players before a point is won." In warm-up, you simply leave off the "before a point is won" part.

I'm sure we've all encountered that person on the court who, during the designated warm-up, tries to hit winners on almost every shot, not giving opponents much of an opportunity to warm up. They're just too busy "winning the warm-up."

Although the ITF Rules of Tennis doesn't state anything specific for warming up, The Code from the USTA does give some guidance. Here is what the Code says:

Paragraph 3: "Warm-up is not practice. A player should provide the opponent a warm-up of five to ten minutes. If a player declines to warm up the opponent, the player forfeits the right to a warm-up and the opponent may warm up with another person. Some players confuse warm-up and practice. Each player should try to hit shots directly to the opponent. (If partners want to warm each other up while their opponents are warming up, they may do so.)"

Paragraph 4: "Warm-up serves are taken before first serve of match. A player should take all warm-up serves before the first serve of a match. A player who returns serves should return them at a moderate pace in a manner that does not disrupt the server."

So, rather than demonstrate what an incredible tennis player they are, or how decisively your behind is going to get beat, here are 3 things to focus on to achieve a winning warm-up for ALL parties involved:

First, get yourself loose and relaxed physically. Hit as many balls as possible - not at full power, but enough to get your arms, legs and body loose, and blood pumping. Overheads and serves should be hit about 3/4 speed to loosen the shoulder.

Second, get mentally prepared. Focus on what's happening on the court to help you play your best tennis; don't think about life off the court. If playing doubles, talk to your partner to make sure you both are on the same page.

Third, quickly size up your opponent(s). Watch how they move, hit the ball, etc. You can get a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses simply by rallying with them as extensively as the five to 10 minutes allows.

To make it even simpler, a winning warm-up is easiest achieved by maintaining a rally mind-set rather than "win the warm-up" attitude.

Now, let's get out there and play.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides custom-hybrid racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. lwmarino@hotmail.com


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