Local Vancouverite and Rackets and Runners Ambassador Rebecca Marino gives a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into preparing for a major Grand Slam tournament and what her typical training day looks like.
Well, it’s almost a typical day. We’re often told that Melbourne has “four seasons in one day," meaning on any given day you can expect any and all sorts of weather.
At my last event in Adelaide, before arriving in Melbourne, we were experiencing 39 degree days. So coming to Melbourne, I was expecting something similar. And the first few days training at Melbourne Park have been hot and sunny, perfect tennis weather!
But upon waking up today, we were met with wet courts and drizzle (very Vancouver-like!). Luckily there are indoor courts on site we were able to access, so my first hit of the day was moved indoors. My practice partner Olga Govorotsova and I had to share the court with two other girls; we all agreed to play two points on, two points off so we could all get practice match play in as we are getting closer to match day.
One of the first things you learn on tour is you need to be flexible and adaptable to the changing conditions, whether it's weather conditions, changing practice times or partners, or anything else that might pop up.
After our 1 hour hit our time was up, and we had to free up the court for the next set of players who have also been rained out.
Between practices, I have a break for lunch. It’s really important to fuel your body appropriately throughout the day. If you don’t time your meal correctly, you could either hop on the tennis court still hungry and low on energy, or alternatively being overly-full and lethargic.
I try to give myself 1.5-2 hours to digest before training again.
The Australian Open team has provided many different food options for us that fit any dietary requirements or restrictions anyone might have. There are also plenty of healthy options available, and we’re lucky enough to get a daily meal allowance (per diem) to cover whatever we may need to properly fuel up.
Back to the Courts
On a typical training day, I’ll try to fit in two sessions of tennis. Depending on how I’m feeling, my second hit of the day may be a drilling session to work on more specific parts of my game that might need a little refreshing.
Because I’m early in the season, and only a few days away from my match day, I’ve really put the focus on match play. That means whoever I practice against, we will play a practice match for as long as our court time allows us. When I sign up for a court booking at the tournament desk, you can say that you are looking for a practice partner (typically written as your name, plus looking… “Marino + looking”). It’s commonly expected that you’re looking for practice matches when you sign up for a court like this. If I did want a training session with my coach or a hitting partner, I would have to request for that instead.
For my second hit, luckily the sun came out and the courts dried up! I had another solid hit, with Greet Minnen this time, and felt really confident in my level of play as I left the court.
I really try to keep a positive attitude on court, which in turn will build and boost my confidence before a big match day.
Last stop of the day is in the gym. At the tournament grounds we have access to three different gyms. If you think about the sheer number of players (which includes wheelchair athletes and juniors), it makes sense to have so many gyms in order to space everyone out.
I communicate frequently with my fitness coach at home, who recommended plyometrics and short intervals today, as well as maintenance exercises for glutes, shoulders and core.
Typically, I would spend about an hour in the gym each day. It’s important to continue your fitness while on the road; especially at the beginning of the year after I put in all the hard work of preparing for the season ahead!
The day or two before a tournament begins, you try to lighten your load a bit so that you can feel fresh and light when you get on court. If I were a little farther away from a match, I would try to integrate more weight training too. But I’m getting close to my event, so it’s better to focus on quick movements, footwork, and jumps rather than getting sore from heavy weights.
On top of the daily gym session, I think it’s important to mention that I always make sure to get a really good warmup before each hit on the tennis court, which will include skipping, mobility, core and glute activation, sprints, and change of direction. This will last about 20 minutes in total, and is the same warm up I would use before a match. The only difference is on game-day I like to do reaction ball toss drills to make sure my hand-eye coordination is feeling sharp immediately before getting on court.
After my gym session, and a quick dinner, it’s time to go back to the hotel. Rest and recovery is just as important as all the other training I am doing, and getting proper sleep will actually make my training more effective.
All the players are staying at the same hotels, so it’s really fun to see other athletes around. The other night I was able to use the hotel swimming pool and steam room as part of my recovery. But tonight, I’m keeping it simple and relaxing with a book.
Lately, I’ve been including a nightly mindfulness session, by listening to a guided meditation. This is to slow my mind and body down after a very stimulating day, and to keep a standard sleep routine.
The most important part of making sure I’m well prepared for my tournaments is making sure I have the right equipment and gear with me. I typically travel with 2 pairs of court shoes, plus one pair of cross-training shoes.
I’m currently wearing Asics Solution Speed FF 2 court shoes, and my cross-training shoe is the Brooks Ghost 14. Due to past foot injuries, and having a very long and narrow foot, I’m very particular about getting the right fit in my shoes. With the amount of running and change of direction we do on court, this is not something that should be overlooked.
I always make sure to pack my second pair of court shoes (and a spare pair of shoelaces!) in my racket bag on court with me in case I have equipment issues.
I’ve heard of cases where players have had to borrow their coaches shoes, or even a spectator’s shoes because of an unlucky mishap. While the likelihood of this actually happening is very low, these stories have made me superstitious enough to always have a backup on hand.
I always make sure I have 4 rackets in my bag, regardless if for practice or a match. You never want to have an untimely string break, so it’s always important to have multiple backups on hand.
Additionally, before each match I get 1 freshly strung racket, knowing that the other 3 have also been strung recently in days prior. With the amount I play each day, plus flying to tournaments, the tension can change very quickly. It’s also important to know the conditions you’re playing in (court surface, weather, altitude etc.), as this might change the tension you string your racquets at each week.
Currently, I am using Yonex VCore 100, with Polystrike Tour strung at 58lbs on the mains and 54lbs on the cross. I also make sure that before each tournament I’ve regripped all my rackets with fresh overgrip. This way the racket grip stays tacky, and won’t slip at all.
I hope this has given you a small glimpse into the behind the scenes of what a typical day of a pro tennis player might look like when preparing for a tournament. I feel really lucky and grateful to do this for a living, and that tennis has taken me to places like Australia! Here’s hoping for a successful Australian Open 2022!
Good luck Rebecca! We'll be cheering for you.
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