Living the life of a tour pro, whether it’s at the ATP or Challenger level, is not just about showing up, playing a few sets, and then on with your life. It’s a job that requires sleeping at the right time, exercising the body frequently, and attempting – although not always being able – to eat the right things.
When Alex Bogomolov made it to the fourth round of the US Open, you can bet your ass that food, hydration and rest were among his top priorities. Winning comes from dedication both on, and off, the court.
It’s easy to forget that tennis is unlike any other professional sport. The year-round schedule of a professional tennis player includes tournaments occurring worldwide. One week you could be at a tournament in Japan, only to travel multiple time-zones a few days later to play a tournament in France.
This constant traveling can take a toll on your body and mind, especially when it comes to a regular sleep schedule.
Like most things, sleep is an integral part of maximizing your performance. You have to find the right balance of activity and rest.
Much of this depends on which part of the day your match occurs. If it’s a night match, you should plan for some shut-eye in the early afternoon. It’s typical to see the tour players sleeping in the lounge of the competition site between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. At Grand Slams and bigger tournaments, it’s rarely an issue finding a suitable place to catch some Zzs; they actually give you a pillow!
However, at smaller, Challenger-level events, it’s not out of the ordinary to see players sprawled across the floor, using racket bags to lean their heads. Being a sleep chameleon, and by that we mean having the ability to sleep anywhere, is a definite plus. If that’s definitely not you, here’s a tip. On some of your off-nights at home, sleep in odd places; maybe the floor or dining room chair. Stay there for half the night, then go back to bed to get some solid sleep.
Considering the tour’s worldwide appeal, and international schedule, it’s recommended to leave any picky-eating habits at home. Unless you carry around a personal chef, you must eat what is offered, and this may not be the healthiest, energy inducing meal you so desperately want. In any case, it’s best to hold your nose and eat, because a full stomach, no matter what it may be filled with, is better than an empty one on the courts.
If you suffer from food allergies, or want to really dedicate yourself to strict conditioning, plan high-energy snacks and small meals that you can pack to travel and eat constantly during the day.
Of course, the buffet Bogomolov enjoyed at the recent US Open was hardly a cafeteria line. So, at Grand Slams and larger tournaments, healthy options will abound.
You just have to make it there.