What Makes Champions at the Australian Tennis Open

Kirsty McNab (Sports Physiotherapist) is an extremely experienced and valued member of the Australian Open Team, working as one of four Tennis Australian Physiotherapist for all the female athletes competing at the Open. 2018 marks her 11th year on the job.  Here she talks about some of the things that make Champions at a Tennis Grand Slam.

This year I had the wonderful and very privileged experience of working with the great Billie-Jean King. This year marked her 50th year since winning the women’s singles Australian Open in 1968, one of the 39 Grand Slam Titles she won in her incredible career. As she says, great champions aren’t just made by what they do on court, but also what they do off court.  Making time to give back to your profession, to supporting others less fortunate around you, to always taking time to appreciate all those that help you be where you are in life, to fight for what you believe in and put in the effort to change even the smallest thing, are all lessons I think we can learn from.

What else makes these champions? Dedication and hard work are everything. Hours go into the gym and on court training. But hours also go into rehabilitation. Every minor and major ache is checked out and a routine put in place to ensure it is nipped in the bud.  This means regular sports massage, self trigger pointing, pool recovery, hours of small, specific physio exercises to keep the body working perfectly, stretching sessions with the physio.  Many of these athletes spend several hours a day, every day with us in the treatment rooms under Rod Laver Arena.

Routine is essential. No matter what, see the physio first, get taped up, stretched, have tight muscles massaged, activate muscles that don’t want to work. Then warm up for tennis, then hit, then gym recovery, then eat, then massage, then rest, then start the whole process again and train again……and so it goes on. Step out of this routine and you are not keeping your body in peak form, you will not survive when everyone else is doing the routine.

The mind is everything. Being able to keep all of this going even when the going is tough, is in a way what helps people step day by day through the bad times. A lot of training goes into getting the mind right as well. You have to keep learning, to keep evolving. As physios, we spend a lot of time doing breathing and relaxation work with the players.  Breathing correctly makes the lower ribs and back move correctly, essential for a tennis player to be able to rotate well and to be able to get maximum oxygen in. But for a player, it helps them move freely, not locking up on court………and you can imagine how much pressure these guys are under in a Grand Slam.

Keeping a strong body is the last thing I will mention. In tennis, 20% of power comes from the arm, the rest from the body. We spend hours with players analysing the biomechanics of their swing and how they move to see where their kinetic chain is weak. A player may have a shoulder problem, but this is because they are compensating for a weak hip that drops out when serving. At this level, the skill of the physio is not just to diagnose and treat the injury, but to successfully analyse why the injury has happened and target this weakness as much, and sometimes more than the injury itself.

Kirsty works along with many other experienced physios, massage  and pilates therapist and pilates at Physiologix. For more information call them on (07) 3511 1112 or email them from contact us section on this website.