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Mariano's Article Jan 2019

How to Keep Playing Longer!! 

The obvious are strings, string tension, racket weight, grip size, shoes, insoles for your shoes, wristband, knee brace, tennis elbow brace, hat, how you warm up for your match, icing after playing, etc.

I will go over each and give you advice on them, some of this is preferential and relative, its hard to say what’s best for you but, for the most part, repetition hitting balls playing tennis will point you in the right direction and if you listen to your body you will know what’s best for you. Feeling pain and being injured is a great tool at telling us how to do things more efficiently.

Strings, well sure, who wouldn’t like to play with natural gut? But it`s expensive and it will lose tension very quickly. The problem with natural gut and synthetic strings is that they only feel good when they are strung tight. However, is widely known that natural gut and synthetic gut are softer strings and easier on your arm.

Polyester strings are stiffer and harder on your arm than synthetic strings. No doubt about it. But it`s important to know that there`s a bigger importance to gauge than the strings itself.

Gauge is how thin or thick the strings really are. Commonly the thinner the easier on your arm. People use millimeters to measure it.  1.20 mm will feel incredible on your racket and 1.35 mm will feel like your strings are made from steel. The gauge will determine how long the strings will last. The longer they last the worse playability you`ll have. The thinner strings are the ones that will give you the most playability.

Tension comes up next because depending on the type of string and the gauge we can decide if we will string loose or tight. The lower the string tension the easier on your arm and shoulder. The tighter you string the more impact you will feel.

I really believe that string tension is more important than the string or racket used. It`s all relative but getting this combination right can make any bad racket come to life and you can string your favorite racket the wrong way and you will never want to use it again. Tension is relative and that will bring us to the next item.

Racket head size and weight, also string pattern. What we are looking for is a balance between it all, and everyone is different. The bigger racket head is not necessarily a good thing if it makes you slow at moving your racket head. There’s something called swing weight and that combines everything.

Smaller head size racket will be faster at swinging at the ball and getting you to the contact point on time, obviously a racket head like 90 sq inches will make it really hard. I recommend between 100 and 110 sq inches head size for most people.

If your racket head is 120 sq inch, then you are going to have to string that puppy pretty tight to get it to pick up some tension or you could afford to string it all with poly strings and get more bite on the ball.

Also, since you are stringing with poly you could string loser and make it easier on your arm.

The ideal racket is the one that is actually heavy, but it doesn’t feel heavy when you play. A racket can weight more than another on a scale but because of its specs, it can actually play like its lighter on the court.

Something else regarding rackets is that you can get a longer racket and gain more power and reach, bigger serves, yeah you might lose some control but as we get older, we can benefit from the extended frames.

What we are looking for is more power, so it`s more effortless to make the ball fast, but you need to be careful not to fall victim of racket marketing that tells you that you should buy their really powerful racket.

String pattern is a very important thing to mention. There are open and close ones. The open ones are the ones that have big squares and the closed ones are the small little square spacing between them.

That actually changes the racket feel. It can make it or break it for me. The extremes are bad, some rackets offer a very responsive and some are just plain dead. There are 18x20 rackets that are actually the worse thing you could ever do to your arm, they are like playing with a paddle.

The bigger squares on the racket will give you a trampoline effect and it will absolutely be the easiest on your arm or tennis elbow, because string bed will offer not impact feel, the ball will come in and out of your racket and you wont even know it, unless you are stringing too tight. It can create more spin but overall it will give you lots of power, hard to control also. You can`t have more power and more control, it`s a give and take. Balance is the key.

Grip size will affect how wigglely your wrist is and how much you are going to have to squeeze your grip to hit. Bigger grips are recommended actually, smaller grips make it harder on your arm, but the recommended is the right size for you plus an over-grip. Also, something usually overlooked at is that having a new sticky grip will require you have a lot less squeeze tension and really help your tennis elbow pain.

Gripping the racket too tight is the number one opponent for tennis elbow people!! Playing with a slippery grip will cause you to grip harder to stop the racket from turning on your hand as you hit and will quickly injure you.

If your racket is too light it can cause you to swing harder or force, you to swing harder and that will also lead you to squeezing harder on your grip and hurt you. Again, finding the right weight is key for your tennis longevity.

Shoes are a very important aspect for tennis people, it offers you cushion, less impact, knee and back support and help you not roll your ankles. I've seen people playing with old shoes, they may look like they have tread left but the cushion effect on them is gone flat and that can cause you heel pain.

I recommend the top of the line tennis shoe each brand makes, saving $40 on a cheaper shoe will come to hunt you later. Having new shoes every 4 months is really important depending how often you play.

A lot of players buy their shoes a size bigger and wear two pairs of socks, it provides more ankle support and cushion, also stops your toes from hitting the end of the show.

Insoles are the most important part because you can fit them into any shoe at any time and wear them all day every day. I don’t just think you should wear insoles, but I think you should go to a foot Dr. and get fitted for insoles and have them custom made for you. They will last a long time and can save you knee injuries and back pain.

Even if there is nothing wrong with your feet and you have a perfect arch, trust me, consulting a foot Dr. can make a big difference on your footwork and keep you playing a long time!!

Wristband, I don’t just mean a regular wristband but one that can keep your wrist solid and firm, to protect you in case you hit the ball late and won't let your wrist bend back. A lot of tennis players tape their wrist, you don`t have to tape it but you should wear some kind of wristband that can feel like your wrist is secured and supported.

Also, a wristband can keep your wrist warm while playing, if you split sets and stop for 10 min on your break before your final set, your wrist could cool down and you could sprain it on a return of serve or mishitting the ball.

Knee brace, it can be useful. A lot of people feel very secured and some people are more skeptical but finding one that is not too bulky and comfortable that is placed in the right place can make that knee pain blend in and get you by. A lot of players with tendinitis on their knees will use a little brace under knee with a little pressure will hold the knee cap and alleviate pain.

Tennis elbow braces do work, they don’t fix your tennis elbow but placed in the proper place can hide the pain while playing unless your tennis elbow is really serious. The pressure from the brace is what relieves the tendinitis or tennis elbow.

Sadly, tennis elbow is something that takes a long time to heal, so preventing is the most effective way to deal with it. Don`t let it get too bad before you start making changes.

Hat sounds simple but using a big hat that cover your nose, and ears completely is so important. Also wearing good sunglasses. Skin cancer is a major problem on tennis players in sunny California.

Warming up for your match, is simple. Break a sweat. Get on a stationary bike for 10 min, or on the treadmill or any gym related exercises can save you from injuries. Unfortunately, tennis warm ups while playing are not good enough when playing on cold weather.

Summer months don`t require such a warm up but 40F weather will hurt you eventually without the proper warm up. If you feel stiffness behind your calf muscle or if you fell your muscles are locked up, warm up and then stretch and then play. A tight muscle is the typical way tennis players get strains and tears on their bodies. Stretching doesn’t take long if you are just treating a particular part of your body that can

Icing after playing is something to add to your routine. Everybody has something they struggle with and that Achilles tendon is something you should treat with some ice. There are no negative effects to icing after playing for 10 min. If that knee, elbow, wrist, shoulder, ankle is feeling some pain go ahead and ice it down.

Keeping a close eye to all this can extend your tennis game for many years to come and keep you fit and make you a better player.

Mariano Parris
Tennis Director