I took my ball machine out to practice yesterday afternoon in Virginia Beach. It was 91 degrees when I left the house and over 100 on the courts. Like many hot days I was the only one there.
I had about 70 balls with me and I planned on doing two ball machine loads of forehands, two of topspin backhands and two of slice backhands. Then I planned to do flat serves and slice serves and call it a day. . . . at least that was the plan.
First load of forehands went very well and I noticed it was pretty darn hot.
2nd load of forehands went OK…..damn it’s hot!
First load of backhand topspin not as good as it should have been . . . did I mention it is extremely hot out?
2nd load of backhand topspins I just tried to go through the motions and sprayed balls everywhere . . . I’m hallucinating about a player on the other side of the net that has a pitchfork as a racket.
I skipped the backhand slice and guzzled some more water.
I pulled the ball machine off the court and got ready for serves. . . I should have quit while I was ahead. . . it was the worst display of practice serves since a coach a few years back had me doing serves with my eyes closed.
OK what just happened here? Well, I can handle the heat better than just about anyone on earth that’s as big as me and I want to be able to tough it out in hot weather so I can run the dickens out of the other guy and get easy points. The problem was practicing in super hot weather. . . . Not a good idea.
Right after the first load of forehands I felt myself getting lazy to try to preserve energy to get through the rest of my planned practice. This meant standing straight up instead of getting a good bent knee athletic ready position. Of course this is going to effect my swing path on any of my strokes. . . .in effect I was practing and reinforcing the wrong swing path or at least one that would compensate for my lazy lower body.
The results of this would be that when it was cooler or I was playing a match and in a good athletic position I taught my muscles to use strokes to accomodate a poor athletic position which would lead to errors when I’m not even tired…..this is dumb fatso tennis.
So, what did I do today to fix this? Instead of practicing in the late afternoon when it was the hottest, I got out there at 10:00 am this morning. It was 10 to 15 degrees cooler than yesterday afternoon and I limited my practice to one load of forehands, one load of backhand topspin and one load of backhand slice and then flat serves and slice serves.
Results: I didn’t get lazy to preserve energy. I practiced like my life depended on it. Forehands were great (well great for me). Backhand topspins were great and backhand slice was great. I still had energy for the serves and the new technique I learned from Coach Mauro last weekend is starting to gel on both the flat and slice.
So, practice hard in cool or cooler weather or indoors to create the proper muscle memory and technique for your lower and upper body and then practice in the heat to push yourself to handle higher temperatures, but only to the point where your technique holds up. When you start practicing the wrong way because it’s too hot, it’s time to go home, put your feet up, drink something cold and watch the Tennis Channel.