The Return of Rafa!

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I was pleasantly surprised to see Rafa biting two trophies in a row at two very prestigious tournaments (Monte Carlo and Barcelona) the past couple of weeks. This is great news for the popularity of the ATP as the European clay court season marches its way to its climax in Paris. If Rafa plays well in Madrid and Rome he will no doubt arrive at Roland Garros as co-favorite with Djokovic to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires on June 5. Of course the challenge for Rafa will be to stay healthy through the next five weeks and to continue to improve in some key areas (first serves, forehand depth, timed aggression, etc.) in order to overcome his clay court challengers looming before the semis as well as to have a legit shot of giving Djokovic a run for his money should the two eventually meet. I am guessing Djokovic would have the mental edge in Paris should he best Rafa in Rome and especially if he sweeps him in Madrid as well. But if the “return” of Rafa over the past few weeks is anything close to the return of “Rafa” from his dominating Paris runs of the past, it could add yet another wrinkle to the story of his ever ascending clay preeminence at the expense of the world’s best player still striving to solve the Parisian puzzle. If Rafa bites silver for a tenth time in Paris, it would become the tennis event of the year and make for even more exciting intrigue heading into London, Rio and New York.

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Hydration for Tennis!

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I was reminded of the importance of staying properly hydrated playing tennis on a hot and sunny day when I heard of Rafa’s retirement in his Miami Open match yesterday. I am not assuming that lack of fluids was the leading cause of his tossing in the towel, but he did mention the heat and humidity being issues for him as he experienced increased physical weakness while struggling to compete in the last set. With temps in the 80’s and high humidity, exertion from rigorous match play had Rafa sweating profusely, his body straining to cool itself in order to keep pace with his determination to fight to the very end. But this time his body just couldn’t do it. In light of his impressive record of match completion throughout his lengthy career, yesterday’s retirement was indeed newsworthy. But it should not be surprising nor should it be cause for alarm. He mentioned the need to secure his health, and thus to err on the side of caution, it was a good move. He’ll recover and move on to the European clay court season soon enough.

Our friends at ITF Tennis have a produced a great summary on hydration for tennis that goes into some decent detail regarding water, sports drinks, salt supplementation, etc. The article is addressed to elite athletes though, and thus some of their suggestions might need adjusting for differing levels of competition. One point I would add is the importance of NOT overlooking water in favor of the latest in sports drinks even though water is old-fashioned and boring. Water is essential. Not all sports drinks are created equal. Yes, some of them include nutrients to help replace lost electrolytes. But some also include inordinate amounts of sugar while others include just plain junk your body doesn’t need. So read labels carefully and become educated. I would suggest taking some fresh fruit in a cooler to “supplement” your water as an alternative to buying sports drinks. But that’s just me. What’s most critical, however, is to keep your body from becoming dehydrated while being unaware of it. The fun of some rigorous tennis on a hot and sunny day can easily be distracting, and thus tennis aficionados who seek tennis health need to be prepared with the right kind of fluids before hitting the courts and then deliberate enough to take sufficient water breaks throughout play in order to do their body right!

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