When the women’s tennis season finishes in late October, the Australian Open looms less than three months away, the first major event of a season that seems to start just as the previous one is finishing.
Tennis is known as the sport with possibly the most gruelling calendar of any other, and one would be right to wonder just what kind of “off-season” players enjoy between their yearly competitive campaigns.
Yet many of the WTA stars ensure they make the most of their relatively brief time away from the courts, scheduling in holidays, training blocks, time to spend with family, necessary surgeries and plenty of other activities in what prove to be a productive couple of months leading into the Australian summer of tennis.
One is Caroline Wozniacki, who seems busier than the rest of the tour put together.
After spending 10 days in Aspen for altitude training, she travelled to Brazil for an exhibition event before training for three weeks in Florida’s West Palm Beach. She next headed to Seoul Korea just after Christmas to start the new year with an exhibition – all before even touching down in Australia for the first of her three tournaments.
“After finishing up (2012) on a good note, I took three weeks completely away from tennis. I travelled to Asia where I spent some time with my boyfriend in Singapore, Hong Kong and then Dubai. Spent a lot of time watching golf and seeing new parts of the world,” she said.
“It was a nice break from tennis.”
Ana Ivanovic was also globe-trotting, enjoying some rare holiday time before focusing on the Australian Open, among her favourite events of the year.
“I was planning on going to New York with my brother Milos, Sorana Cirstea and a family friend of ours. Obviously the weather was catastrophic, so we cancelled that plan,” she said.
“Instead Sorana and I visited Milos in London for a few days. I also spent a lot of time visiting my parents’ in Belgrade. And prior to the Fed Cup Final I visited Milan.”
While many of the players stayed put in the Northern Hemisphere – such as Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska, who vacationed in Cuba – Australian Sam Stosur couldn’t wait to get home.
This partly had to do with the fact she needed surgery to remove a bone spur from her foot, but another was the chance to escape the harsh European winter and head for the sunny beaches of Sydney, where she now resides.
“I headed straight home to Australia as it had been a long year and I was really looking forward to taking some time and just relaxing,” Stosur admitted.
“It is (also) really the only time of the year where we get to train very hard and not have to compete soon after. It provides us with time to work on our games as well as getting our fitness base up.”
Indeed, most of the players – in between travel, relaxing, and any exhibitions – were truly putting in the hard yards.
On the practice court, in the gym and out in the environment, they have been sweating and grinding it out for hours to best prepare themselves for the year’s first Grand Slam event and the unforgiving conditions in which they will undoubtedly compete.
“I am still fairly new to the Tour so I am still learning how much it affects the upcoming season. I have been doing a lot of beach runs, speed work and power drills to make me quicker and more explosive around the court,” British No.1 Heather Watson revealed.
While Watson was doing that, world No.29 Yaroslava Shvedova was laying other foundations in place ahead of her Australian Open campaign.
“I didn't get much time off because I was very busy getting all the visas I need to travel in 2013,” she laughed.
“I was like a secretary during the off-season doing so much admin work!”
While their off-seasons may have been full of these such tasks and more, the fact many of the WTA players have permitted themselves such limited chill-out time reflects just how important Australian Open 2013 is to them.
The chance to start a new season on a good note with a deep run at Melbourne Park – which hopefully sets them up for a successful year – serves as excellent motivation to make the most of the off-season.
“I do love the Australian Open,” said emerging American Sloane Stephens, “because the crowd is amazing and city is so laid back.
“It is one of my favourite tournaments of the year, and I am excited to see how my off-season training has paid off.”