The summer season in Canada lends itself perfectly to out of doors sports; with half the year covered in snow, we want to make the most of the good weather when we have it. Tennis is one such activity. Played mainly in singles (but also some doubles), you can put a whole new dimension on cardio by running around the tennis court for a few sets. Here’s some of the science behind this great sport.
As tennis has developed into one of the most popular sports worldwide over the last century, Canada has produced top-ranked players intermittently, never sustaining representation among the world’s elite consistently. Sure, there have been occasions when we’ve shone in the international Davis Cup (effectively the team world championship of tennis), but our nation unfortunately never kept the momentum building. Nowadays, however, we seem to be in a “hot” phase once again. Thanks to the likes of 19-year old US Open Champion Bianca Andreescu and 21-year old Denis Shapovalov, Canada has thrust itself into the limelight for another kick at the court. With good reason: not only are these two amazing young Canucks constantly knocking off many of the best players in the world, but they also appear to be still on the upswing in their careers with years of potential championships in their sights.
Here’s an Inside Fitness look at the science behind this intricate, competitive game that provides exceptional fitness benefits:
SCIENCE OF THE SERVE
You have a big advantage when it’s your turn to serve, since you can dictate how play initiates using direction and velocity to weaken the defenses of your opponent. Serves should occur one to two feet behind the baseline, and upon tossing the ball vertically, it should be struck at its peak (which should be 1.5 times your height). It’s not unusual for even recreational players to strike the ball at 100mph, which means the ball is in contact with your strings for six milliseconds. Interestingly, about 55 percent of the forces exerted on the ball originate from the elasticity in the rubber of the ball.
In singles tennis, your half of the court measures 27 feet across and 39 feet from baseline to net. That’s 1,053 square feet you have to cover, often with additional running wider than the sidelines. Coaches teach that as soon as you’ve hit a shot, you should immediately return to the centre of the baseline in anticipation of your opponent’s next shot. This reduces the potential for “angle exploitation”; if your opponent sees you’re lazily hanging back on one side, he’ll surely hit the ball to the other side. Truly, while a rally is in progress, there’s no stoppage in running even as you await the next shot.
TOPSPIN, SLICE AND HOOK
Since you don’t just hit the ball to your opponent (you must get it over a 3-foot net and then land it in play), topspin is present on almost every shot to varying degrees. This makes the ball rise and sink more sharply. Experts suggest the ideal racquet face angle to do this is 50 degrees from perpendicular. Quite literally, the ball compresses as it slides down the strings, rather than directly bouncing off them. Professionals hit the ball with about 2,100 revolutions per minute (RPM) which then doubles to 4,200 RPM after the ball hits the ground. The same principle applies to lesser degrees with a slice (the ball curves outward from a right-handed player) or a hook (curves inward).