The energy expenditure numbers in the five-hour, 53-minute epic, Australian Open men's finals are astonishing. According to Dave Martin, senior sports physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sports, and David Hornery, author of the report, "A Review on Fatigue in Tennis," Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal ran approximately 1,100, 10-meter sprint intervals in the match covering almost four kilometers!
Keep in mind several things here. First, that this was in hot and humid conditions. Next, they were crushing the ball on almost every strike. I have never seen a match in which the players hit as consistently hard. Next, the sprints were not just linear. They made sharp multidirectional cuts every shot. Finally, this was a tense, close Grand Slam final. The emotional energy alone spent by these players must have been enormous.
Martin further explains that these athletes were burning "600 to 1,000 kilocalories per hour, which is near the maximum rate of energy expenditure for sustained exercise of more than two to three hours." It's extraordinary that Djokovic and Nadal were able to keep the intensity, effort and skill level so high for six hours.
You cannot possibly be in your "Trained For Zone" in a match like this. This was something special, these players pushed the envelope of sports performance. Here were two gladiators playing on guts and heart.
I'm starting to think that tennis players might currently be the best all-around athletes in the world.
Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 state high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.