Andy's latest Column - The Australian
Andy - Friday, January 18 2013
Column taken from the Australian (19/01/13)
IT took a few days but a factor that makes the Australian Open the tough grand slam that it is finally arrived on Thursday, the blazing sun and heat.
The temperature on Thursday at Melbourne Park peaked at 41C and understandably a lot of players were feeling hot and bothered. I’m told there were players cramping on court and I heard one player even needed intense treatment following his match. It can be a brutal sport at times.
I actually did not find it too bad though. Sure, when the sun came out, it was pretty uncomfortable but because there was some cloud cover through the day, it did not really worry me. Plus, I played well enough against Joao Sousa to get through to the third round without spending too much time on court. Playing shorter matches early in a grand slam can often be a key to doing well later in the tournament. The fresher the better. Well, I hope so anyway.
One thing about playing in Melbourne is that while it can get really hot at times, it does not have the humidity of some of the other tournaments, it is the sweaty conditions that can really test you. New York can be really taxing if you get a warm and sweaty day.
The worst conditions I’ve ever played in came during my junior days when I was pitted against a mate who is still a great friend to this day, Dani Vallverdu, who travels with me as a hitting partner. In the early part of the year there is a series of strong junior tournaments through South America, and when I was 14 or 15 , I travelled there to play, around the time I moved to Spain to train on the clay courts there. The most famous event is the Banana Bowl in Brazil and while I skipped that one, I played tournaments in Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador and Peru, it was a pretty amazing trip for a teenager. The match against Dani in Paraguay stands out though. Not only was it 44C, the humidity was over 90 per cent. It was hard. Really hard. I remember feeling terrible at different times during the match and the score line, 6-2 0-6 6-4 my way shows that. But at least I got one up on Dani and I don’t let him forget that!
The important thing when you know there is going to be testing conditions is making sure you’re prepared. When it is 39 to 40C here, I go to great lengths to keep hydrated properly and to eat properly. From 40 hours before the match, I am doing everything I can to make sure I am at my peak when I step on to the court. Part of that preparation, of course, dates back to the off-season which I spend in Miami. But you shouldn’t think that all I do when I’m not playing is train, if you don’t have other interests outside the court or a break from training, you can get pretty stale. Every week I have a couple of days off, or at least a day and a half rest, just to make sure I am refreshed for each session that I do.
When I’m in Miami, I’ll go and watch the basketball quite a lot. It’s probably topical given the weather in Melbourne on Thursday, but the Heat were on fire in the NBA last year. Not that you’ll ever see me on a basketball court. I’m horrible! We tend to head to the malls there and do some shopping if needs be or head to the beach and try to relax. Otherwise I keep myself busy trying to come up with a winning combination for my fantasy football team. I’m sure I’ve written about that in the past and although I’m yet to touch on it in a column on this trip, I’m happy to report I’m on top. It gives me bragging rights over my friends at home.
My match today is against Ricardas Berankis, a guy I hit with quite a lot. I actually practiced with him here before he started the qualifying tournament last week and he is a really hard worker. Ricardas is obviously playing some good tennis because he has already won five matches here and he hits the ball pretty big from the back of the court, so I’ll have to be on my game. It is good to see him doing well because he’s a nice guy but I’ll be putting our friendship on hold today.
Finally, given I’m aiming to write columns all the way through the fortnight as that will mean I’m still in the tournament, I thought I might ask my readers if they have any questions they would like answered. The quirkier, the better! I can’t write about the heat all the time, after all.
If anyone would like to write, please do so through [email protected]