Commentary

These WTA players hitting the gym early

Updated: January 11, 2011, 11:14 AM ET
By ESPN.com

While you were hustling around for the holidays -- eating, drinking and generally being merry -- the world's elite tennis players were getting after it in gyms all around the world.

After the grueling 10-month WTA season (who wasn't injured at some point of the season?) most players took two or three weeks off in November, then started ramping up their workouts in December. They know that the most successful players at the Australian Open, which begins next Monday, are the ones who worked the hardest when no one was watching.

Here, in quotes and observations collected by the WTA communications staff, is how some players spent their offseasons:

Kim Clijsters, winner of the U.S. Open and year-end championship: For the first time in her career, from November onward, Clijsters included boxing in her training sessions. As a fun alternative to the general base training and to improve both her footing and her speed. Other than her usual training, Clijsters also spends time with Bikram yoga twice a week.

"This is a great change from the usual base training," she said. "It was quite tough initially, but after a few weeks it's starting to pay off already."

Coach Wim Fissette: "The difference between boxing and tennis couldn't be smaller: similar footing, coordination of both eyes and hands, focus. It simply is all beneficial for a tennis player, too."

Kimiko Date Krumm, who produced a 27-19 singles record and, at age 40, finished with a No. 51 ranking: "It was a really long season. After the Asian Games in Guangzhou, I had just one week off, and visited my friend and did an excursion. From Dec. 13, I went to Miyazaki [in southern Japan] and started physical training with my coach and trainer. Mainly, I run on the track. Wind sprint, jog, walk, core-training, sprint on sand, etc. And then, a few days later, I started to play tennis."

Ana Ivanovic, the former No. 1 player, who won two titles and finished the year at No. 17: "One of the keys to successful training, in my opinion, is to keep things as varied as possible. I've been doing some fun things like beach volleyball and basketball, and I've been lucky enough to go running among some beautiful landscapes. In the gym, we make things interesting, too, with yoga, music and even some boxing movements. Of course, I also do more traditional stuff like weights and the treadmill, but these are the most interesting activities!"

Vera Zvonareva, who reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open: "I am working with Carlo Tosi, who works for Fysiomed in Amsterdam. He is a physical therapist, but he is also taking care of my fitness during my offseason as well. This is the time of year where we start fresh and really build the base for the upcoming season. It is a really good time to also evaluate your past season and look at areas where you need to improve.

"When I am not training, I like to watch movies, catch up on 'Glee' and some other shows -- and sleep! Sometimes you can never get enough sleep. It is a good time for me to do school work as well because once I start traveling and competing I know I will get behind."

Samantha Stosur, who reached the final at Roland Garros and finished a career-high No. 6: "2010 was the busiest year of Sam's career to date," said Narelle Sibte, her fitness trainer. "In the first week or so when we are attempting to accumulate training volume, activities such as kayaking are fantastic for upper-body strength, trunk rotation and core stability. I even got some tips from the Aussie K4 team! The other priority is further enhancing her explosive leg strength and footwork."

Stosur: "The best part of the offseason is the chance to catch up with family and friends in a relaxed environment without knowing I have to jump on a plane the next day and fly across the world. It is also nice to wake up each day in my own bed and visit all my favorite local places. There is no really bad part of the offseason."

Victoria Azarenka, who at the age of 21 finished 42-20 in singles and was ranked in the top 10 for the second straight year: "Vika's preseason training will be composed of three main physical components, each with different subsections. The three main components are movement, strength and cardiovascular fitness," said Lauren Lafitte, her fitness trainer. "Vika's first couple of weeks was centered around correcting functional weaknesses and muscle imbalances. This ensures all joints and muscles are working in unison. We trained movement patterns using techniques such as reactive neuromuscular training. Vika will then move on to her strength training. She will do all of her strength work in a gym using mostly free weights. Typical strength exercises that Vika will be doing are squats, lunges, dead lifts, chest press, pull downs and a variety of core exercises."

[+] EnlargeShahar Peer
William West/AFP/Getty ImagesShahar Peer hopes that a rigorous offseason regimen will help lead her to a deep Aussie Open run.

Shahar Peer, who finished a career-high No. 13: "This year we decided to train in Miami for Shahar's preseason training," said her coach, Craig Kardon. "The idea of training before the season involves every aspect of a top player's development setting a base for the whole year. The first part of the training period involves mostly building an aerobic and power base for her fitness. The last couple of weeks from a fitness point, Shahar will work on explosive power and tennis-specific movement. During this last period, she will be playing practice matches with various hitting partners, University of Miami players, and some female and male pros."

Flavia Pennetta, who played a combined 139 singles and doubles matches (winning 103): "My daily regime is pretty much the same as last year's preseason. This means training, training, training! This year has been a really great year, with Gisela [Dulko] we really did something special! Preseason training is very important because it is the time to work on the faults, to analyze what must be done better in the new year. Together with Gaby [her coach] we decided to play fewer tournaments than in 2010."

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the two-time major champion, who fell outside the top 20 (No. 27) for the first time in seven years: "It was great to spend some calm time at home seeing my friends, visiting my parents in Saint Petersburg [where she also managed to see the soccer match of my favorite team Zenith Saint Petersburg], going to movies and doing all these girls things like facials, manicures and pedicures and going to 'banya' [Russian version of sauna] with seaweed wraps and massages. It was a perfect rest time that I enjoyed very much.

"On Dec. 5, I traveled to Dubai to adjust to the warm weather and practice there at the Jumeirah Hotel until I head straight to Auckland on Dec. 27. The Jumeirah managers told me it is just me who will be practicing there this December -- and some other guy named Roger."