Getting ready in 5 minutes.

When you only have 5 minutes to get ready to play a match there is a lot to consider. In the 5 minutes before a match you need to emotionally, mentally and physically prepare yourself. It’s not a lot of time and it goes by quickly.

Ideally you will have already hit for about 30 minutes prior to your match; warming up all your strokes and fine tuning anything in your game that feels a little off.  Some pros warm up with a hitting partner that best matches the style of their opponent. So if they are playing a left hander who hits with a lot of topspin they will warm up against someone who can mimic that style of play. Some players hit with their coaches; the familiarity both of the coach and of their ball will relax a lot of players and get them into their match mind set and the routines they concentrate on quickly and efficiently.  Other players will seek out players who are scheduled to play at the same time as them and ask them if they would like to warm up.

If you have warmed up before your match then use the 5 minute warm up to get mentally ready. Your body shouldn’t need a whole lot more prepping but, of course, if anything stands out in the warm up you can take note and concentrate on that area during the warm up (and on into the match if needs be). For example, if you notice your ball isn’t as deep as it was in your pre-match warm up then you can focus on making contact further out in front and extending your arm and racket through the shot more for a few shots.

I realize, however, that sometimes it isn’t possible to warm up before a match; the courts might already be in use or you’ve just come straight from work and have arrived when you are due on court. If that’s the case and you can’t even find a good wall to hit a few balls against make sure you have at least told your body that you are about to need its services. Run around the parking lot (safely!) for a few minutes, jump rope, do some shadow swings.  Anything to let your body know that it needs to wake up and get going. A little bit of exercise before you step on court will also help you mentally and emotionally.  Use the exercise to start focusing on how you’d like to play; remember the things you have been working on recently (‘make sure you have a solid, wide base to hit from…. prepare your backswing as early as possible…..etc.’); be aware of the weather and the court conditions – is it windy? Sunny? Are there cracks in the court? Is it clay or hard? And finally get your game face on; leave your day’s baggage at the gate and walk out onto court ready for battle and for some fun.

If the 5 minute warm up is the first time you have struck the ball all day then you have to get going hard and fast. Make sure above all else your feet are working from the get go. You don’t have time for them to be sluggish. Get them going and if nothing else in the warm up make sure they are taking the big steps to the ball and then the little steps around the ball.  While concentrating on your footwork you want to make sure you are getting a good, clean contact with each swing. If you can successfully finish the warm up with your feet moving and your contact sweet and clean everything else will fall into place quickly once the match has begun.  If you have time to focus on more and you feel comfortable with how you are striking the ball spend a minute watching your opponent. Are they favoring a particular side already? Is the technique on their backhand going to hold up if you apply pressure there during the match? Can they volley? Is their second serve attackable?  Obviously you won’t be able to tell all your opponent’s secrets in the few minutes before a match but it is nice to start the match with an idea of where to attack and what area of your opponent’s game you can try and break down.

Once you have warmed up your groundstrokes make your way into net for some volleys. Even if you don’t ever come to net during a match there’s no need to let your opponent know that this early on. Similarly if your opponent doesn’t take any volleys that gives an indication of their style of play – baseliner. So perhaps the odd low, slice short ball to bring them in wouldn’t be a bad tactic to try.

At the 2 minute call from the umpire you should be warming up your serve. You want to warm up your go to serve (your favorite serve, the one that you can always rely on) first so that you know that if all else fails you have your bread and butter serve working. From there you can start to warm up your bigger serves with varying spins, targeting different areas of the court. If your serve feels great and you are ready then spend the last remaining moments of the warm up returning your opponent’s serve. This will give you a good look at how hard they are going to hit their serve, what spins they are capable of and will also get your eye in for the different bounce a serve gives you.

Once the umpire calls out ‘time’ hit your last shot and make your way to your chair. This is your last chance for you to breathe and collect yourself before the fun really begins.

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