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Ana’s coach David Taylor gives his expert advice on how to prepare for matches
Obviously it’s important to be well hydrated but you don’t want to drink too much before you play because you can get an overactive bladder, which means you’re going to the toilet too often. That often happens when people are nervous, they drink too much.
During a match you should try and drink 250 millilitres every change of ends, or every 15 minutes, so that you’re drinking a litre of fluid an hour. The body isn’t the most efficient when it come to re-hydrating itself, so you should make sure you do that.
Professionals tend to have a light concentration of sports drink like Gatorade. They tend to mix it before a match with water, so it can be a little easier to absorb. It’s better than water alone because it’s got electrolytes, a lot of salt and other things the body needs to regenerate. But water alone is okay as well.
Stretching and physical preparation
You should be active in your pre-match warm-up. You don’t want to do static stretching, just standing there and stretching – that has shown to have very little benefit. Active stretching, like walking and stretching, or doing a leg swing, are what you would call a dynamic warm-up, and that’s what you should be doing. Static stretching, for example sitting on the floor and working your muscles, should only be done after a match.
During the period immediately before your match you should reinforce your tactics in your mind, but the main thing is to be active and ready to play. During the pre-match warm-up you’re hitting down the middle, so it’s difficult to see weaknesses in your opponent – weaknesses are usually accentuated when a player is moving. I wouldn’t get too worried about your opponent during the warm-up, unless you’re at a very low-level where it’s obvious they have a particularly weak shot. I wouldn’t panic when you see your opponents’ strokes and likewise I wouldn’t get too confident either. But of course look at how they are hitting the ball and if there is a real deficient weakness you can pick up on it and try and exploit it during the match.
How to focus
Before a match you should remember that what you do is the only thing you can control. You shouldn’t waste your mental energy on anything that you can’t control, like a type of ball you don’t like, a type of surface you don’t like, or a type of opponent. Your energy should be focussed on what you can do well. Before a match you could try and go through a lot of the things you might encounter during a match that you can control, for example if you get nervous on big points, try and figure out how you can get around that. One piece of advice I would give is when you are feeling tight try to be tactically aware rather than emotionally aware. So concentrate on how you can win the point, not how important the point may be. If you play on emotion, for example saying to yourself, “Okay, one more point” you often forget about the tactics, and that’s dangerous.
Interview by Gavin Versi
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Photo : Stephanie Morel