Are tennis players’ holidays real holidays?

Nov 21, 2013, 12:00:00 AM

Like all human beings, tennis players need a holiday at the end of the year. But as high-level athletes, are they entitled to the same holiday that everyone else? Tentative answer in the question of the week.

Like all human beings, tennis players need a holiday at the end of the year. But as high-level athletes, are they entitled to the same holiday that everyone else? Nothing is less certain.


The Post-Masters break is always a very special period for a tennis player. The latter isn't an employed athlete but an independent who earns his crust according to his performances on the courts. Therefore, his occupation during the offseason can be different depending on his ranking. When prominent members of the Top 10 take the opportunity to play many profitable exhibition matches around the planet, the random ATP player has to play Challengers tournaments or club competitions to improve his ranking before the Australian Open and/or just make ends meet. Worlds apart. The only common denominator in the lives of all tennis players, regardless of their rankings, is ultimately the real break they allow themselves during the offseason. Paul Quétin, fitness trainer at the FFT, explained it to the sports daily L'Equipe: "The rule is to take 10 to 15 days completely off for a full decompression, to really relax. No fitness and no tennis." So much for the rule. But what about its application?


Remote destinations, excesses and fear of injury


Julien Varlet, former world 135th, confirms that the tennis players' holiday is first and foremost a real holiday: "It's the only time of the year where the players can let everything go and relax. Many take the opportunity to go on the other side of the world to see the sun. Others spend time with their families. The break lasts for two weeks at the most" he says. Questioned on this subject by the French newspaper Le Parisien, Julien Boutter, a former professional tennis player and director of the Open de Moselle seems to agree with him: "It's true that you're all over world throughout the year. But at the same time, if you want to see the sun at this time of the year, you have to go far. It’s the only way to have a real break." No backpacking trips then, but trying to have a good time in summer temperatures while winter is coming in Europe.


Even risking excesses? Yes why not. But without abuse: "You can take this opportunity to do what you can't do during the rest of the year: party, hang out with your friends, drink shots... Players who are between 18 and 25 years are no angels... Personally, when I was a player, I was going out a lot during the holiday, because during the season, between tournaments and preparation, it's pretty much impossible" said Julien Varlet. However, he tempers immediately evoking silly injuries, the worst enemies of tennis player on holiday: "There are many players that avoid all ball games for fear of stupid injury or to avoid excesses… Because after, it can be really difficult to go back to training. The offseason is, with the winter break after the Australian Open, the only "fundamental" period of the year where players can really work on their game and on their fitness." A key period a player’s season, where it’s better to avoid getting stuck at the physio, cursing this stupid beach volley match during which they’ve hurt their back.


The holiday spleen?


As often in individual sports, tennis players have their very personal routines, between superstitions, body understanding and search for confidence. It's not uncommon to see players go on holiday with a pair of trainers and some racquets, says the former pro: "Some players still take a couple of racquets to hit a few balls and stay fit. Others go for a run every day. All players have their own habits." But a question arises: when it’s over, do tennis players get a holiday spleen? Not at all, according to Julien Varlet, "No, the players are desperate to go back to training then to the ATP Tour in Doha and Australia to start the season in the sun..." Tennis players definitely don't have the same holiday than everyone else.


By Antoine Mestres