Players in strict quarantine will have a big disadvantage compared to their fellow competitors going into the Australian Open, says trainer Matt Little, but they can adjust their training to reduce problems.
"Elite tennis players are the opposite of the rest of us in that we all get stiff and sore when we start doing some exercise whereas they get stiff and sore when they stop and don’t keep doing exercise," Little, Andy Murray's strength and conditioning coach, told Metro.
"They’ll get most things from a tennis and tactical perspective back but it’s the body’s exposure to this explosive work after a two-week period of enforced rest that’s actually really quite dangerous for them."
There are at least 72 players in strict quarantine prior to the Australian Open following contact with others who have since tested positive for coronavirus. Unlike other players, they cannot leave the room for five hours of practice each day.
The increased physicality of the game has only increased the importance of pre-event training, added Little.
"They are charging around the court at eight meters per second, slamming on the brakes with 10 times their body weight going through their legs and then exploding off in the other direction. The chance to be exposed to that on court is definitely a big advantage," he said.
Matt Little and Andy Murray- Getty Images
But he offered specific suggestions of training players can do in their rooms to stay in competitive shape. That begins with serving sessions to avoid sore shoulders when getting back on court.
"Even if that’s in kneeling position, they need to expose their shoulder to that velocity of movement and that specific action a lot," he said. "What causes the damage there is the deceleration of the arm...the small muscles at the back of the shoulder joint have to pull pretty hard to do that. This makes them pretty sore and can cause problems when players start serving again."
Players also need to replicate their movement on court, said Little. "I would be encouraging players to move as often as possible," he stated. "It’s those real high-velocity sprints where you really pick up speed and then brakes—that’s what you need to expose yourself to to be prepared for what’s to come."
Even players in small rooms can do some of this, he added. "But, you know what, most of these movements are about three to five meters in a match so they can train fairly specifically to that. But there are also sprints that would be 15 to 20 meters on a court," he said
Little also advises players to start slowly once they get back on court, with limited hitting "two or three days minimum, building up to kind of more volume," and then noting "they need to taper down before the tournament" to be fresh for competition.
Players will have a week of warm-up events before the Australian Open.