In the first two days of this year’s Australian Open in Melbourne, temperatures have already soared into the high-90s. Heat is always a factor at the first Slam of the year, and especially in recent memory. In 2014 and 2015, temperatures during play approached, and sometimes surpassed, 110 degrees, forcing them to change their extreme heat policies. At some point, it becomes unsafe to play at those temperatures, as evidenced by players, ballboys, and fans suffering from heat-related illness. That being said, no matter the temperature, the best of the best rise to the occasion, and simply handle the heat better than their opponents. You can, too! Here are some tips for how you can beat the heat just like the pros do at the Australian Open.
1. Hydrate well and often
This one may seem obvious, but it is the most important thing you can do to handle the heat during a match. Temperatures on court can often reach 10 or even 20 degrees higher than the air temperature. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after play. Drink some every changeover, even if you do not feel thirsty. You may be dehydrated before you feel thirsty!
2. Use the right kind of fluid replacement
Water is king when it comes to hydration, but you don’t want to rely exclusively on it. Electrolytes are key to staying hydrated in the heat of battle. Use a combination of water and electrolyte-enhanced drinks to stay hydrated. It’s always a good idea to have a bottle of water AND a watered-down Gatorade (or something like it) while on court.
3. Increase the salt content in your food and drink
This may seem counter-intuitive, but studies actually show that sodium is the major electrolyte lost through sweat. Eat foods and drink beverages with higher salt content before and during a match that will replace salt content. Sports drinks and snacks like salted pretzels are great.
4. Prepare physically for the heat
The better shape you are in, the better you will handle the heat on court. In the summer, make sure you keep up your non-tennis workouts, and you will perform better on court.
5. Use ice and cold towels
Bring a small cooler of ice packs and cool, wet towels to a match in the heat of summer. Use them on changeovers and after the match to keep your body temperature down. However, avoid putting ice directly on your muscles as it can cause stiffness.
6. Wear sun-friendly clothes
Choose lightweight, light-colored, breathable clothing for any matches played in high-heat that will allow sweat to evaporate quickly.
7. Use sunscreen
By using sunscreen, you not only protect yourself against future skin cancers, but you can also avoid sunburn which can raise skin temperature and contribute to heat illness.
8. Get acclimatized
By spending some time in the sun before your match, your body will be more prepared to handle it during the match.
9. Stay out of the sun when possible
When you are not playing, try and get out of the sun, even for short periods of time. In between games and points, if there is a bit of shade, try to stand in it, no matter for how long.
10. Know your limits
If you start to feel any signs of heat illness or dehydration, or become very uncomfortable on the court, stop playing and get out of the heat. Winning a tennis match is never worth risking heat illness.
So now you know how the pros handle the heat. Take these tips with you to the court next time you are playing in high-heat, and let us know how it goes in the comments section!