fter trashing Guillermo Canas 6-0, 6-3 in the MUTUA MADRILENA MASTERS MADRID 2007, Federer made the following comment; «I was especially disappointed with the Miami loss, so to beat him later in the year after two tough losses is nice.»
To me that answer did not make one bit of horse sense! Why would Federer be upset to have lost in Key Biscayne, Florida (U.S.A.)? when the altitude is about only 3 Meters (9 Feet) above sea level, the courts are relatively slow, the balls do not move at all, the humidity and heat are unbearable, breathing is a torture, the wind blows from every direction, all in all conditions that highly favored a marathon type player from torrid and humid South America like Cañas, with an extremely low unforced error percentage (the so called «paparra»*).
Roger’s more honest answer would have been «Yep, Miami hurt but Indian Wells hurt even more because I was playing under conditions that favored me, with an altitude of about 500 FT (167 M) and weather identical to my city of birth, Basel 853 FT (260 M), on pretty quick courts, with fast high bouncing topspin shots, rather low skidding balls on my slices and volleys, but in the end Canas still nailed me!»
In conclusion to the question, Roger Federer could have said; «Even though those two defeats hurt me, in Madrid at an altitude of about 1,969 FT (656 M) with all other conditions in my favour, fast moving balls high boucing on quick tennis courts, very low skidding balls on my slices on my attacks and volleys, plus the key factor of playing on an indoor tennis court which virtually and effectively reduces Canas defense capabilities by about 50% when the defense is indeed the core of his game, I knew that no matter how bad I played, chances were 95% in my favor that I would win.» (Note- The 5% left in Canas favor would be in case of a Federer injury!)
This would have made plenty more sense to me, what about you?
In reference to «high altitude play» 1,800 FT (600 metres) is not a real challenge even though it does affect play, but anything at the 3,000 FT (1,000 M) and above sea level should be approached with much respect and longer then a 3 day preparation should be planned. As a tennis player here are some places to watch for; Mexico City, Mexico 7,349 FT (2,240 M), Quito, Equador, 9,200 FT (2,800 M), Johannesburg 5,751.3 FT (1,753 metres), Lima depending on location up to 5,079 FT (1,548 M), Gstaad 3’150 F (1,050 M) and a few others.
Altitude play can be a real curse or a blessing depending on how well you adapt and the type of game you play. Altitude training (sometimes simulated altitude in pressurized systems) is a blessing because, done the right way** and at the right times in the year, can lead to the natural gain of red blood cells which are so much in need for top performance.
The more an athletes body is at the top of its fitness, the greater care you have to take with it. In some ways an athlete’s body is like the strings on a violin. As you fine tune it, the sound produced can be sublime, but, with the increase in sound quality, the risk of breaking the strings is much higher as well.
Of course there is a lot more to it then what meets the eye in tournament play. Knowledge of the conditions and quick adaptation to the environment you are going to play in; court surface, court size, back-drops, colours, wind patterns, tennis balls, lighting, sun position, shoes, racket string tension, clothing, sleeping plus drinking water, nutrition, mental preparation, regeneration and more…are all fundamental.
An early arrival of 2 to 3 days before the tournament begins allied to proper nutrition, physical and tennis training, can definitely make a huge difference in the outcome of your performance in a tennis tournament. The no respect of this rule at ATP/WTA professional level, many times leads to injuries and often to the surprise early exit of seeded players, who were late arrivals due to overloaded schedules, final play in a previous tournament and a myriad of other reasons.
In the tennis high altitude tournament play the scenario is no different, even though some believe if you can’t train at altitude for at least two or preferably four to five weeks, prior to the tournament, your next best choice appears to be to compete immediately. But, since most athletes compete at their worst 24 to 48 hours after arriving at altitude, in my opinion you should keep in mind that everyone is in the same boat (exception, the ones born and who lived many years in high altitude) therefore an early arrival of at least 3 days before the tournament should be enforced and give you a small edge by passing the 48hr threshold.
As far as Federers comment, of course he knows what’s going on, but he has to say something to the hungry press and certainly it will not be the real truth that he keeps for himself in the only place he can have true privacy for his pains and tribulations on the tour, his heart!
*In South America a tennis «paparra» is «el que passa mil y una pelotas (bolas)» the one that gets a thousand and one balls over the net without making a mistake. In short, «the tennis players nightmare»!
** For example, living at high altitude 6,000 FT (2,000 M) or above and training at lower altitude between 3000 FT (1,000 M) and 4,200 feet (1,400 M), with proper medical supervision (iron intake, VO2 max, lactates and other important controls), should bring the best results.
– NOTE WELL, this is NOT a training plan, nor advise for unsupervised athletes or anyone else. An individual professional training plan, professional advise and medical supervision before, during and after training is a must! DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT try high altitude training alone, trying it alone can put YOUR LIFE AT RISK, so DO NOT DO IT without a highly qualified professional training team and medical support!
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