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Jurgen Melzer: Switching Surfaces

Melzer© Bongarts/Getty ImagesJurgen Melzer prefers to practice for two weeks on clay before playing tournaments on the surface.

At 30 years of age, Jurgen Melzer remains one of the fittest players on the ATP World Tour. He’s achieved significant results in recent years, advancing to his first Grand Slam singles semi-final in 2010 at Roland Garros and ascending to a career-high ranking of No. 8 in April 2011.

In February, the Austrian captured his first ATP World Tour 500 trophy in Memphis, cooling off a red-hot Milos Raonic in the final. With the European clay-court swing fast approaching, sat down with Melzer to discuss what players need to do in order to successfully transition from hard courts to the dirt.


When preparing for the European clay-court season, what do you do different with your fitness training?
You try to work a little bit on your abductor and adductor, because that’s probably the area that changes the most. You have to do a lot of sliding. You want to try and do some sliding and work on your legs before you start playing on clay courts. The first hours you have, it’s always going to be tough, but after a while, you adjust to it and are fine.

You’ve had great success on both hard and clay courts. You beat Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros to reach the semi-finals in 2010, took out Roger Federer last year in Monte-Carlo and won the title in Memphis this year. What do you need to do to find positive results early on in the surface switch like you did in 2011?
We have the Davis Cup against Spain right after Miami, so there’s not a lot of time. Spain has the best clay court players in the world, so I better get ready quickly. Usually, it takes me a little bit to adjust. I like to have two weeks of just practice on clay courts, but that’s not an option this year. I probably have five or six days. But it’s nice to have the Davis Cup, to get match fit on clay early on.

With clay-court matches generally running longer in comparison to the other surfaces, how much emphasis do you put on training your endurance?
Endurance is very important. I started working on it in Indian Wells. Whenever you have time off between tournaments, you have to work on it, because the matches are going to be longer and physically more demanding, so you need that extra level of endurance. I always try to get ready in the preseason, looking to get my endurance level high, and then try to maintain it during the season. Between Indian Wells and Miami, there are four or five days where I try to focus on it. But you can’t do much when you play a tournament, as it’s the most important thing.

Which part of your body feels the effect of changing surfaces the most and what do you do to make sure it doesn’t get overworked or injured?
This varies. Usually with the sliding, it’s the abductor that gets most of the damage. When you win a lot of matches on clay, it’s actually better on the body as you have less stress. So it comes with winning that makes it a lot easier.

What sorts of exercises do you do to ensure your footwork maintains its level during long matches?
Since I grew up on clay, it’s a lot easier for me to adjust to sliding. There are players that grew up on hard courts and it’s probably more difficult for them. But for me, it’s just natural, so I don’t do anything in particular.

What you are you most proud of about your fitness and why?
I know I can run at least as long as the guy across the net. I’ve put a lot of hours in on the bike, so it’s nice to be able to walk on the court and know I’m at least as fit as the guy on the other side.

How would you advise recreational players to effectively and safely change surfaces?
The first hours you play, take your time. Get used to the sliding and the surface. That’s more important than trying to go out there from the first point and giving 100 per cent. Don’t push the limit too early.

Which player on tour do you think...
Has the best footwork?
Gael Monfils
Has the strongest core? Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Has the greatest muscular endurance? Roger Federer
Is the most flexible? Novak Djokovic
Is the quickest? Bjorn Phau
Has the best balance? Roger Federer

- COMPEED is an official supplier of the ATP.

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