Megan Moulton-Levy blog: Fitness is vital

March 14, 2017 08:36 AM

Megan Moulton-Levy competed on the WTA Tour in both singles and doubles, advancing to the round of 32 at all four Grand Slam tournaments and reaching a career-high ranking of No. 50 in the world in doubles in July 2013. Moulton-Levy was a four-year standout at the College of William & Mary from 2004-08, where she earned All-America honors six times and reached the 2006 NCAA singles semifinals and the 2007 NCAA doubles final. A two-time recipient of the National ITA/Arthur Ashe Jr. Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship, Moulton-Levy currently serves as a senior coach at the JTCC in College Park, Md. For the next several weeks, she will be writing a blog on that will focus on her coaching career. In her latest entry, she talks about the importance of fitness.

By Megan Moulton-Levy

In my blogs, I have spent a lot of time talking about how having a healthy mindset is key to finding success as a tennis player. I have also talked about specific parts of the game that need and deserve more attention and focus. However, there is one area that I have not touched upon that is vital to achieving one's goals – fitness.  

Strong legs are the foundation of tennis, although that is not our main focus the majority of the time. We spend most time concerned about the hand hitting the ball, which is the last part of a sequence that ends with the ball being struck. First, your eyes need to recognize the ball coming, then your feet need to place your hand in the location needed to hit the ball. Not one part of the sequence is more important than the other, but a strong base, support system and leg drive can send the ball back faster than it will with just having a pretty swing path.

Before your feet are set to hit the ball, you must first get there. A common theme I see among juniors is they pace their steps to get to the ball just in the nick of time. I find myself reminding them to "beat the ball, don't meet the ball." I often tell the kids their first two steps going to the ball or recovering must be their most explosive.

I do not play tennis like most women. I do not have clean, linear, flat shots. When playing singles, I had to rely on my foot speed and sheer determination to track the ball down and send it back over the net. The ability to run down every ball from an endurance standpoint is critical in the modern game of tennis. In a developmentally appropriate way, kids need to learn to be more physical when playing tennis. It can turn into a weapon if someone feels like they must hit winners in order to beat you. It will cause them to go for too much and get extremely frustrated. I have felt unstoppable when I am in top shape. It gives you confidence in knowing you can get to every single ball. Also, if for some reason my other weapons were not working, I always knew I could rely on my legs.

As tennis becomes more physical, developing general athletic skill is going to be more and more important. While multi-sport tennis players tend to be late bloomers, I find that kids who have played other sports have better body awareness, view the court in a more creative way and generally enjoy the sport more.

Sometimes it is OK to not spend four hours a day hitting tennis balls. A soccer break or track workout could build other skills and give your mind and overused muscles a little breather. Spending time off court doing leg and core strengthening, interval training, plyometrics and other fun sports activities can be hugely beneficial.