Hitting new heights
There was plenty to be proud of after my 2015 grass court campaign. I achieved a career-high ranking of 14 after reaching my first final on turf – the Aegon Championships – and I came incredibly close to a win over world number one, and eventual Wimbledon men’s champion, Novak Djokovic.
Our fourth round clash at the All England Lawn Tennis Club lasted nearly four hours over two days. After a strong start, I found myself up two sets to love against a visibly frustrated Djokovic. I was playing well and knew that the victory was attainable. The match was ultimately suspended due to darkness at two sets-all and we returned to Court One for a final set showdown the following day.
I came out swinging on day two, and even created two break points for myself, but I was unable to convert them. Although the suspension worked in my favour as Novak had the momentum after fighting back from two sets down, I was not able to prevail. Ultimately, Novak found a way to win.
Despite my dissatisfaction with the result, I proved to myself that I have the game to take down anyone on tour. I was also incredibly touched by the outpouring of support from fans in South Africa and across the world for that matter. Hopefully, in some small way, my results can inspire young tennis players from Africa, so they too can compete at the top level of tennis at these world-class events.
After an exciting but disappointing Wimbledon exit, I was really looking forward to heading home to Florida. The first week back home, I stayed away from tennis, which is quite refreshing and rare during my calendar year.
Friends from college came to visit and we enjoyed spending time together at the beach and around town. We also headed down to AA Arena in Miami for a night to take in a Shania Twain concert. It was special because with our extensive travel schedule, concerts I want to see rarely coincide with my geographical location.
I also enjoyed participating in some non-tennis physical activities like pilates lessons with my wife Kelsey, frisbee and paddle ball on the beachside.
When I was ready to get back into the swing of things, I started with my tennis-specific fitness programme crafted by Allistair McCaw of the McCaw Method. I’m unable to make very much progress on my fitness during competition weeks due to the added stress and soreness my body would have to endure.
As such, my training block after Wimbledon was a very important time to make overall fitness improvements. My gym work focused on strength, core work and “prehab” to prevent injuries. We also did plenty of fitness work on a field to improve my speed and movement.
Meanwhile, on the tennis court itself, I continued to work on the major strengths of my game and fine-tuned any notable weaknesses. I practiced about two hours a day with my coach, Neville Godwin, as well as with local juniors or futures players.
I arrived a few days early at my first event, here in Washington DC, in order to sharpen my game by playing points with other top professionals.
HYDRATION KEY DURING HARD-COURT SEASON
Since the US hard-court season is incredibly hot, hydration is definitely an area of concern. It not only affects my on-court energy and decision-making but also the recovery of my body, hours after I have left the site.
We measured how much fluid I lose during an average on-court session, and I was shocked by the results. After two and a half hours of playing, I had lost a staggering 7.25 kilograms!
This proved that I, more or less, cannot drink enough water during matches or training sessions, and that rehydration needs to become a priority moving forward. Managing hydration as well as nutrition on-court is an area of my game that I will definitely manage more proactively as we enter one of the most physically strenuous portions of the year.
We also analysed the composition of my electrolyte beverage, protein shakes and snacks, to ensure I am consuming an adequate balance of carbohydrates, sugars and proteins to meet my body’s needs.
Armed with this new approach, I’m confident in my ability to beat the heat this summer and looking forward to some great results.
I play my first round match at the Citi Open this evening (US time) in the capital of the United States, which will be a great way to kick off this North American campaign.
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