When you see the likes of Rafael Nadal battering the ball around a tennis court, it might not be immediately clear how yoga and tennis fit together. However, yoga has been a key ingredient in improved tennis fitness, and it’s changed the way the game is played.

Over the last 15 years, professional tennis has become a much more physical sport. Gone are the days of serve and volley and part time professionals; tennis is now a very demanding full-time job.

Where a normal person will have the weekend to recover from a long week at work, a professional tennis player must recover from gruelling long matches while travelling and keeping up intense hours of practice.

This means pros need to find a way to effectively and efficiently look after their bodies, engage in active recovery and improve their on-court performance in a time effective manner. If only such a thing existed…

Here’s where yoga has shown to be a vital tool!

The Pros Turning to Yoga

Many professional tennis players have turned to yoga over the past two decades to provide this source of recovery and flexibility that they so desperately need whilst grinding it out on the professional circuit. Although many of the highest paid and top ranked players will travel with physios and physical trainers to help with their recovery, yoga has become an integral part of many players’ routines.

Even on the shots we take for granted such as the serve, the body is under enormous pressure, and tennis player’s bodies need to be extremely flexible to deal with this. This takes a huge amount of physical training, and yoga is now a fundamental part of this.

We have seen many players partake in yoga on social media, such as Grigor Dimitrov, Sam Querrey, Kei Nishikori, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Kevin Anderson. There is no doubt that the vast majority will now use yoga, Pilates and dynamic stretching to aid in their recovery and advance their flexibility on court.

Yoga – Taking Djokovic to the Very Top

No player has embraced and embodied the full yoga experience more than Novak Djokovic. One of the main traits that has set Djokovic apart from the rest of the field over the past 15 years has been his physicality.

Modern day tennis requires a unique combination of strength, rotational power, speed and flexibility, especially in the modern game. Novak has excelled in this area with his exceptional flexibility and strength from fully outstretched positions.

In many ways, Djokovic has pushed the game on to new physical levels, through his flexibility, agility, and power, and yoga has been a key part of this. His incredible physicality makes the court feel small for an opponent and overwhelms them, forcing them into errors that they would not usually commit.

Since bursting on the scene in 2008 and winning his first Grand Slam at the Australian open, Djokovic has been heralded as one of the most flexible players on tour. This is fundamentally down to his dedication to yoga which has helped him with breathing difficulties, lower back pain, on court performance and mental clarity.

Coincidentally (or not,) Djokovic has racked up 17 grand slam titles in that time and has spent an endless number of weeks ranked the number one player in the world.

A Key Element of Tennis

Following Djokovic’s success in dominating men’s tennis for the best part of 10 years, many other professional and mature players have taken to yoga as a way to improve their tennis.

It’s now clear to see how yoga has reshaped the game of tennis, bringing extra athleticism, and importantly, allowing players to play at the top level for longer. Yoga has certainly been an instrumental part of making the physicality of the modern game more sustainable, along with shaping new footwork techniques and playing styles that push the game on to new levels.

How Yoga Improves Your Tennis

Yoga has reshaped how tennis players move on the court and recover and strengthen their bodies off the court. More specifically, it is great at improving a few specific areas related to tennis.