Specific tennis fitness tests that take into account technical efficiency, have been validated scientifically (part 1) and could be considered ‘gold standards’. But these tests are exclusively reserved for players in well-structured centres because of the detailed methodology necessary for successful execution.
For years, national federations have used the multistage fitness test (or 20m shuttle run test) to evaluate aerobic fitness due to its practical implementation and ease of use. However, though it involves change-of-direction (COD) movements, it’s still a continuous incremental test and does not represent the intermittent characteristics of tennis play.
A tennis match is characterized by intermittent exercise, alternating short (4–10 second) bouts of high intensity and short (10–20 second) recovery bouts, interrupted by several periods of longer duration rest (60–90 seconds). The running activities of players encompass high accelerations and decelerations but low velocities reflecting the intermittent play involved in tennis, which does not allow high velocities to be reached (Hoppe et al, 2014).
By this point, I think we’re beyond prescribing tennis players to run long and slow (at least I hope we are). If you want to understand why this is the case, I urge you to read through this post, as I outline how the energy systems work and interact with one another.
Yet we still need players to be able to endure tough points, tight sets and long matches. No question about it. So how do we do this?