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Olympic Fitness: Tennis

Fitness, General, Human Interest

This blog is one in a series about how watching the Tokyo Olympic Games can inspire your own fitness and fun.

Unlike the famed US Open and Wimbledon, Olympic tennis only comes around every four years (or five, in the case of the delayed 2020 Olympics). This makes Olympic gold a coveted achievement for even the most seasoned pro player.

Since tennis returned to the Olympics in 1988, the U.S. has won more gold medals in the sport than any other country. Americans Serena Williams and Venus Williams each have won four gold medals, making them tied for the most gold in Olympic tennis history.

Adventist Health Portland physical therapist Dr. Janel Bhattacharya, who is pictured here, began playing tennis around the age of 8 and competed during her college years in Kansas. She continues to play both singles and doubles and says she appreciates the cardio workout as well as the strategy of planning shots.

With that background. Dr. Bhattacharya offered to share some insights about Olympic tennis as we turn our eyes to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Taking a look inside elite tennis

Professional players typically start playing as kids, around the age of 6 or 7. As they become more competitive, training gets more focused. “These athletes will be put through many different drills and practice matches as well as strength and conditioning,” Dr. Bhattacharya says.

The sport is a year-round commitment. Tournaments are held throughout the year, often on different surfaces like grass or clay. That means constant practice to adjust for each surface.

Tennis involves both the mind and body. On the physical side, there’s a huge endurance aspect. “These matches can stretch out for hours,” Dr. Bhattacharya says. “Proper nutrition and hydration are key to avoid cramping or injuring yourself.”

She adds that the sport takes a sharp brain too. “Tennis requires you to stay calm while planning out your shots. You will find that players who get frustrated start missing shots,” she points out.

Takeaways from tennis

In addition to being played at an elite level, tennis is a popular leisure activity that can be enjoyed by people of a wide range of skill. “Tennis is a fun way to incorporate exercise into a game with friends while getting to spend time outdoors,” Dr. Bhattacharya says. She adds that the sport helped her meet new people when she moved to the Pacific Northwest.

That doesn’t mean tennis is always easy. “Tennis has a lot of cutting movement when running after balls,” Dr. Bhattacharya warns. She suggests easing into the sport and making sure you listen to your body.

Because overuse injuries are quite common due to the repetitive motions in tennis, players of any level may need the advice of a physical therapist to keep them on their A game. If you find yourself in pain from tennis or any activity, give Dr. Bhattacharya and our rehab team a call at 503-261-6962.