The recent (Sept. 8th 2012) Wall Street Journal article “Why the USTA Benched America’s Best Junior” talks about the “World’s No. 1 Junior Girl, Taylor Townsend, and why her coaches say she needs to get in better shape”. Here are some thoughts…if Patrick McEnroe wants the players in the USTA program to be in decent shape then a) that’s his decision and b) if it’s applied to every player then that’s fair.

© by robbiesaurus @ flickr

So, does a tennis player need to be in great shape in order to be successful?

Certainly not in women’s tennis but from a conditioning standpoint body fat is “dead weight” because it doesn’t contribute to better athletic performance. Therefore, the less extra weight a player has to carry around the quicker he/she will be able to move around the court. On the other hand, having low body fat% is associated with poor joint health since shock absorption capabilities are corrupted (e.g. meniscus; knee), which also increases the risk for injuries.

Interestingly female tennis players can afford to be overweight yet successful whereas that phenomenon hasn’t been seen so much in men’s tennis where most top players are in great shape. The reason for this could have something to do with the location of body fat as it relates to balance/stability since one’s ability to move quickly around the court is depending upon how quickly dynamic equilibrium can be attained.


Balance is attained when the “center of mass” is within the “base of support” (legs); the center of mass is generally below the belly button in athletic stance. If the center of mass is raised then it becomes harder to maintain balanced but if it is lowered then it is easier to be stable. Now, women generally store their body fat at the buttocks/thigh area (below the belly button) thereby lowering the center of mass whereas men tend to store fat in the abdominal/”love handle” area thereby raising the center of mass. Just a thought…

Apart from the physical aspect, being in shape also has a positive psychological effect because it enhances the player’s self-confidence, which certainly has a positive effect on performance. Also, overweight individuals, athletes and non-athletes alike, that lost “weight” and got into shape report that they feel better about themselves, have more energy and are motivated.

By taking the aforementioned into consideration it seems to make sense why Patrick McEnroe wants his players to be in shape. Also, only a few people know Taylor Townsend’s situation (myself excluded) so it’s hard to conclude anything but I certainly hope that she stays successful and is happy with herself and her decisions.

If anyone is interested in learning more about tennis conditioning you can visit; a FREE eBook about weight training for tennis is also available.





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