Fundamentals for tennis fitness training - speed and endurance

The most formidable opponents carry both speed and endurance until the very end of their matches… right to the last point.

If you’ve been watching the 2019 French Open you’ve no doubt marvelled at the athleticism of the worlds best players. Speed and endurance are critical for all tennis players but especially clay court specialists due to the longer rallies associated with the surface. The best clay court players are light on their feet, fast but also have excellent stamina. They need to be able to wear down their opponents but also strike swiftly when the moment arises. They are not only physically powerful, strong, agile and fast but also mentally patient, crafty and focussed.

© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

On clay, balls travel slower and bounce higher, eliciting longer rallies, more points played from the baseline, and a great deal more running. Heavy topspin can give the already high bounce an extra kick, pushing a returning player back in the court and making it hard for them to attack. That’s why Rafa has dominated at Roland Garros for so many years.

Those with superior athleticism and staying power will always dominate a surface that puts a premium on fitness. Players must spend more energy on the clay court to achieve the same distance they would on grass or hard, mostly through the prominence of sliding.

Lacking the ability to ‘last’ on any surface is a common issue for tennis players. Speed and endurance play a big role in how we play and feel. Imagine having the ability to play longer with better stamina and recovery. Having strength in these areas helps your mental clarity so you can make better decisions in the later stages of matches. Your off-court training should involve some form of regular and tennis-specific endurance training.

Here are some examples of speed and endurance drills to include in your training:

Interval run training - 6 sets

  1. Begin the drill with a 5min warm-up run at 50-60% effort

  2. Run for 2mins at 80%

  3. Walk for 1min at 50%

  4. Repeat 6x sets of the above with no stopping

  5. Finish the drill with a 5min cool-down run at 50-60% effort

Total time: 18mins

Effort scale: 10% being a really slow walk - 100% being running as fast and hard as you can (like your life depended on it, as opposed to a fast jog to catch the bus)

Shuttle runs - on-court

This drill is frequently used for tennis footwork training.

  1. Sprint from baseline to service line and back

  2. From baseline to net and back

  3. From baseline to opposite service line and back

  4. And finally from baseline to opposite baseline and back.

  5. Repeat the above 10 times over and record your time using a stopwatch

This is a great drill for improving endurance and speed as well as footwork. The multidirectional movement associated with the drill is ideal for a tennis player.

For more drills like this and for any other questions you might have about improving your tennis fitness contact me here or jump over to my article about tennis conditioning.