yoga for tennis, plus what you need to know to play
posted: April 29, 2014
As the distinction between celebrity and sports star is increasingly harder to define, there’s a chance you know of a famous tennis player or two—especially if they’re sisters with 24 Grand Slam titles between them (we’re talking about you, Serena and Venus) or pros who married famous child actresses before marrying famous tennis players (here’s looking at you, Andre Agassi). But if push came to shove, could you step onto the court—or even watch a match—knowing what’s going on? Our friend Christine Ronning, a yoga teacher and one-time competitive tennis player, serves up the info you need to sound smart (enough) about tennis on the court and off, and five yoga poses to help your game because, as it turns out, yoga and tennis really do make a great match.
5 yoga poses to help your game
As with any other sport, you’ll do your body good by adding a stretch. Try these familiar yoga poses to get limber before and after you step out on the court.
Standing forward fold (Uttanasana)
In addition to opening the back side of the body and releasing the lower back, this pose relaxes the central nervous system and calms the mind—massively helpful before stepping on the court.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
With the head below the hips, this pose encourages the mental calmness initiated with the forward fold. It also opens your muscles through the calves, hamstrings, and shoulders, all areas that commonly contract during play.
Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
Fantastic for opening along the side body in a safe and aligned manner, counteracting the twisting motion that occurs during serving and groundstrokes in your tennis game. Triangle also strengthens the core, legs, ankles and feet, all of which are used to move around the court.
Seated Twist (Marichyasana III)
This twist combines a gentle hip opener in a form that mimics the twisting action used to strike a ball and follow through. By holding this shape, the muscles of the lower and mid back (prime targets for tightness during extended play) can relax and release.
Cowface Pose (Gomukhasana)
Increasing the hip opening in our seated twist, this pose really gets into the uncomfortably tight spots—uncomfortable, yet necessary. Taking care of the hips will help maintain a healthy lower back and knees (two areas prone to injury in tennis). Adding the arms opens through the shoulders and upper arms, which can be strained when swinging a racquet repetitively.
what you need to know to keep up with the other tennis club kids
do your homework
To brush up on your tennis intel and stay in-the-know for locker-room conversation (or just to get stoked to play), there are four major tournaments, known as Grand Slams, to tune into each year; The Australian Open (January), The French Open (May), Wimbledon (June) and The US Open (August). These majors are the most important tournaments for professional players as wins here count for the most points in the ranking system.
know the players
You don’t want to be the only one in the room who doesn’t know who Agnieszka Radwanska is, even if almost nobody can pronounce her name. (Psst! here‘s how to.)
The top three female players in tennis today are Serena Williams (USA), Li Na (China) and Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland).
For men, the top three players are Rafael Nadal (Spain), Novak Djokovic (Serbia) and Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland).
Bonus points for knowing that Anna Kournikova (Russia; mostly famous for being pop star Enrique Iglesias’ main squeeze) never won a singles title before retiring from professional tennis; and that Roger Federer (Switzerland) is ranked world no. 4 by the Association of Tennis Professionals.
the basic goods
Each game is started with a serve. The server stands to the right hand side of the centre mark of the court and serves the ball in the right service court on the opposite side of the net (so, diagonally across the court). The serve cannot go past the service line or the singles sideline or it is considered ‘out’ of bounds. The ball must land in the court, on the line (any part of the line) to be considered ‘in.’
Each player has two chances to get his or her serve ‘in’ bounds. When both serves miss, a double fault is called, and here’s the interesting part: a point is awarded to the other player who is receiving serve.
After the serve, the ball can be played anywhere inside the court and players get into what is called a rally (this is the back-and-forth, back-and-forth part of the game, usually accompanied by a lot of grunting from the players).
Tennis has its own, unique scoring system. Just remember: zero score is called ‘love,’ one point is called 15, two points is called 30, three points is called 40, and four points is a game. It’s really quite futile to try to make sense of this strange system (though the New York Times took a great stab at it).
Memorize these three words: game, set and match. Here’s how they each play out:
o It takes 5 points to win a game
o It takes 6 games to win a set
o The best of 3 sets wins the match—but wait, just to keep you on your toes: in major tournaments men will play best of 5 sets
o Each game must be won by two points. If players are tied at 40,40 (which in tennis they call ‘deuce,’ not “40-all”) the next point scored is called an ad (translation: advantage). If the player with the ad loses the point, the score goes back to deuce. If the player with the ad wins the point, the game is over. The game can undulate between ad and deuce as many times as it takes for one player to win two points in a row.
o Sets go to a tiebreaker game when the score reaches 6,6. The tiebreak is won by the player that first reaches 7 points with a 2-point lead. (This is easier to understand while watch two players battle it out, we promise!)
o In Grand Slam Tournaments the final set does not go to a tie break; players must win by two games
And there you have it. Of course, you can just go out with a friend and hit the ball back and forth across the net. That’s fun, too.
Christine is a yoga instructor, coach and energy healer. She played competitive tennis at a university level once upon a time, and still occasionally swings a racquet. These days, the lions share of her down time is spent on the yoga mat, the mountain biking trails and out at sea learning to sail. If she could be any creature in the world, she would be a dolphin.