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The heat is on
Judy Murray
Judy Murray
LTA performance manager and Andy's mother

From the beginning of November to the end of December there is a much needed break in the ATP and WTA circuits and players will take time to recharge their batteries.

But before the Australian Open starts, players will have only taken a short holiday before getting down to the serious business of pre-season training.

Most will head somewhere hot in order to prepare most effectively for the warm weather they are likely to experience in Australia in January.

Andy Murray and Brad Gilbert
Andy's programme included hill sprints which he did one day with former Olympic champion Michael Johnson

Judy Murray

Roger Federer makes his way to Dubai while Ivan Ljubicic and Robin Soderling are among a number who base themselves in Monte Carlo.

Andy Murray, Tommy Haas and Max Mirnyi opt for the Florida sunshine at Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Bradenton.

The focus for most players will be on building up their endurance and tackling the strength of the core, upper and lower body areas.

Players will have to be physically ready to play matches in the extreme heat of Melbourne and with a five-setter lasting up to five hours, strength and stamina are vital.

Most of the top players will have access to a physical trainer and a physio during this time.

It's important that these two work together with the coach to design and implement the best possible programme for conditioning the player's body and for improving their game.

The physio will be aware of any weaknesses in the body and will design the daily exercises required to strengthen these, as well as giving daily massage after training.

The physical trainer will put together the fitness programme which will involve weights sessions in the gym, on-court drills for speed endurance and fast footwork, plus the inevitable hours pounding the track or treadmill or maybe even running hills!

Press up
Press ups are a great way to work on upper body strength

Andy worked with physical trainer Mark Grabow in California before he headed for Bollettieri's camp.

His programme included hill sprints which he did with former Olympic champion Michael Johnson, cardio work, weight sessions for both upper and lower body plus lunging and medicine-ball work to strengthen his core and improve his balance.

He also did on-court drills to improve speed endurance, speed of reaction and explosive speed (that's speed off the mark).

During heavy training sessions and competition in hot countries, players need to be watchful of their body temperature and make sure they are properly hydrated.

You can lose up to two litres of water per hour of exercise. Water is the best drink to replace this liquid but if players have been exercising for a long time, electrolyte replacement is better because it replaces the essential minerals lost in sweat.

Players will probably drink about 600ml of water 30 minutes before their match, then drink 250ml of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercise (or at each change over).

Players should invest in a water bottle which has the quantities marked on the side so you can see how much you are drinking

Judy Murray

They will weigh themselves before and after each match or work out and shouldn't lose more fluid than 2% of their weight. Good hydration not only decreases the risk of heat illness, it will also help players perform better in the heat.

It is also really important to keep cool. When players exercise for a long time in hot conditions they put a lot of pressure on the body's thermostat and there is a very real danger of overloading it.

Have you noticed how often players change their tops during matches?

Wet clothes make it more difficult to cool down because they restrict evaporation. Most pros will wear tops made from "wicking" material (dri-fit) which draws the sweat away from the body and the material remains dry, allowing the body to remain cool during exercise.

You will also often see pros putting ice under their armpits and in the groin area to help them cool down quickly after a match or practice.

So it's not just about preparing the body to be physically fit enough to cope with the demands of a tough match, players need to prepare their bodies to cope with the conditions too.

Long matches at the Australian Open will test player's fitness to their maximum capabilities. Just ask Andy Roddick!

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