With the ATP Tour returning this week at the Western & Southern Open, players will want to get off to a quick start. Early momentum, especially at an ATP Masters 1000 event, could prove key to a strong end to the season.
But according to Gil Reyes, who is known for his work as Andre Agassi’s strength and conditioning coach, players should not get too far ahead of themselves if they don’t come out of the gates firing.
“No one pulled away from you while you were out. Don’t panic, just play. As you were. Pick up where you were because you had no other choice,” Reyes told ATPTour.com. “You don’t have many matches under your belt… My advice is just the facts themselves: nobody else has been playing, either. You want to win, but so do they. You’re not as sharp, but neither are they. You’re rested, but so are they.
“I’m not sure that anyone is really ready because nobody’s had to go through this before. It’s hard to measure anything now because there is no precedent for this… Nobody really knows. When you get out there, get ready to run.”
Reyes points out that it’s normal for athletes to have time off when they’re hurt. But during that time a player wonders whether the pack is closing in or pulling away. In this special circumstance, everyone has been out of competition.
“You need to get out there, you need to get your matches. Mentally you’re behind because you’re seeing peers playing and in this case nobody’s playing. That’s going to be a tough thing mentally for everybody,” Reyes said. “This is unique in the sense that everybody is coming out shaking off the cobwebs.”
Reyes described tennis as a sport of timing and reflex, from the hand-eye coordination to the geometry and the physics that are employed in points. Players use angles, spin, speed, calculate the bounce and more. It will be a lot to process immediately in a live match for the first time, making maintaining positivity essential.
“Don’t expect yourself to be match sharp because you’re not going to be,” Reyes said. “But hope everything else is ready, because it won’t be long before they open all the gates and here we go.”
A player whom Reyes works with in Las Vegas from time to time is 36-year-old Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. The veteran visited with Reyes just before the ATP Tour was suspended due to COVID-19 in March. The fitness coach says one of the big keys for the Spaniard during this time was maintaining his physicality.
“His calling card is his strength, his physicality. If you ask 10 people to describe his game, I’m going to guess nine would say power,” Reyes said. “When he was here we certainly discussed wear and tear. It will be a detriment to you if you push and you redline on every workout because now you’re asking your body to endure.
“Fernando just needs to stay fit for sure, stay strong. You’re not going to forget how to play. He’s been hitting since he was a little boy and hitting in a pretty unique way, so he just does it. He doesn’t need to play and work so much. He just needs to stay physically sharp because that is connected directly to his and every athlete’s head. They know when they feel good and strong out there and they know when they don’t.”
Reyes is interested to see how the return plays out.
“I think everybody is going to be ready. I really do. I think the war horses are going to be ready because they’re rested. I think the young warriors are going to be chomping at the bit because they haven’t been playing. I think it’s going to be really good,” Reyes said. “We don’t know about the timing in the first tournament or two, but I think this will in a weird way produce some good results physically for our tennis athletes.”