Sports Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 199–212 | Cite as

Fatigue in Tennis

Mechanisms of Fatigue and Effect on Performance
  • Daniel J. Hornery
  • Damian Farrow
  • Iñigo Mujika
  • Warren Young
Leading Article


This article reviews research sourced through sport science and medical journal databases (SportDiscuss® and PubMed) that has attempted to quantify the effects of fatigue on tennis performance. Specific physiological perturbations and their effects on common performance measures, such as stroke velocity and accuracy, are discussed. Current literature does not convincingly support anecdotal assertions of overt performance decrements during prolonged matches or matches played during unfavourable (e.g. hot and humid) environmental conditions. The constraints of field-based research have presented, and continue to present, a methological challenge to investigators within this domain. Limitations of previous investigations have included the following: (i) a restricted measurement approach to the mulifaceted skills that form the basis of match performance; (ii) a lack of sensitivity and large variability in skill or performance measures; (iii) usage of non tennis-specific methods to induce fatigue; and (iv) fatigue levels failing to reflect those recorded in match play.

Hyperthermia, dehydration and hypoglycaemia have all been identified as common challenges to sustained performance proficiency in tennis, with emerging evidence suggesting central fatigue may also be a key stressor. Mixed results underpin attempts to mitigate physiological compromise and in situ performance deterioration through application of potential ergogenetic strategies (e.g. carbohydrate and caffeine supplementation, and hyperhydration). Methodological limitations are again a likely explanation, but positive findings from other skill-based sports should encourage further research in tennis. To date, tennis has largely relied on traditional methods to measure performance and has not yet realised the benefits of new sports science methods. Future research is encouraged to adopt methodological approaches that capture the multi-dimensional nature of tennis. This can be achieved through the incorporation of multifaceted performance assessment (i.e. perceptual-cognitive and biomechanical measurement approaches), the improvement of measurement sensitivity in the field setting and through the use of experimental settings that accurately simulate the energetic demands of match play.


Core Body Temperature Central Fatigue Match Play Simulated Match Tennis Match 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this article.


  1. 1.
    Richers TA. Time-motion analysis of the energy systems in elite and competitive singles tennis. J Hum Move Stud 1995; 28: 73–86Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Elliott B, Dawson B, Pyke F. The energetics of singles tennis. J Hum Move Stud 1985; 11 (1): 11–20Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    O’Donoghue P, Ingram B. A notational analysis of elite tennis strategy. J Sports Sci 2001; 19: 107–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Christmass MA, Richmond SE, Cable NT, et al. A metabolic characterisation of singles tennis. In: Reilly T, Hughes M, Lees A, editors. Science and racket sports. 1st ed. London: E&FN Sport, 1994:3–9Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Docherty D. A comparison of heart rate responses in racquet games. Br J Sports Med 1982; 16 (2): 96–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Misner JE, Boileau RA, Courvoisier DP, et al. Cardiovascular stress associated with the recreational tennis play of middle-aged males. Am Correct Ther J 1980; 34 (1): 4–8PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Davey PR, Thorpe RD, Williams C. Fatigue decreases skilled tennis performance. J Sports Sci 2002; 20: 311–8PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Vergauwen L, Spaepen AJ, Lefevre J, et al. Evaluation of stroke performance in tennis. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998; 30 (8): 1281–8PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Vergauwen L, Brooms F, Hespel P. Carbohydrate supplementation improves stroke performance in tennis. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998; 30 (8): 1289–95PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Davey PR, Thorpe RD, Williams C. Simulated tennis matchplay in a controlled environment. J Sports Sci 2003; 21: 459–67PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Dawson B, Elliott B, Pyke F, et al. Physiological and performance responses to playing tennis in a cool environment and similar intervalized treadmill running in a hot climate. J Hum Move Stud 1985; 11: 21–34Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Struder HE, Hollmann W, Duperly J, et al. Amino acid metabolism in tennis and its possible influence on the neumendocrine system. Br J Sports Med 1995; 29 (1): 28–30PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    St Clair Gibson A, Baden DA, Lambert MJ, et al. The conscious perception of the sensation of fatigue. Sports Med 2003; 33 (3): 167 76PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Noakes TD. Physiological models to understand exercise fatigue and the adaptations that predict or enhance athletic performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2000; 10: 12345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Bergeron MF, Maresh CM, Kraemer WJ, et al. Tennis: a physiological profile during match play. Int J Sports Med 1991; 12 (5): 4749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Reilly T, Palmer J. Investigation of exercise intensity in male singles lawn tennis. In: Reilly T, Hughes M, Lees A, editors. Science and racket sports. 1st ed. London: E&FN Sport, 1994: 10–13Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ferrauti A, Bergeron MF, Pluim BM, et al. Physiological responses in tennis and running with similar oxygen uptake. Eur J Appl Physiol 2001; 85: 27–33PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Christmass MA, Richmond SE, Cable NT, et al. Exercise intensity and metabolic response in singles tennis. J Sports Sci 1998; 16: 739–47PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kovacs MS. Hydration and temperature in tennis: a practical review. J Sports Sci Med 2006; 5: 1–9Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Fitts PM. The information capacity of the human motor system in controlling the amplitude of movement. J Exp Psychol 1954; 47: 381–91PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ferrauti A, Pluim BM, Weber K. The effect of recovery duration on running speed and stroke quality during intermittent training drills in elite tennis players. J Sports Sci 2001; 19: 23542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Welsh RS, Davis JM, Burke JR, et al. Carbohydrates and physical/mental performance during intermittent exercise to fatigue. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2002; 34 (4): 723–31PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Cauraugh JH, Gabert TE, White JJ. Tennis serve velocity and accuracy. Percept Mot Skills 1990; 70: 719–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Davis JM, Bailey SP. Possible mechanisms of central nervous system fatigue during exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997; 29 (1): 45–57PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lepers R, Hausswirth C, Maffiuletti N, et al. Evidence of neuromuscular fatigue after prolonged cycling exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000; 32 (11): 1880–6PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Nybo L, Nielsen B. Hypexthermia and central fatigue during prolonged exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol 2001; 91 (3): 1055–60PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Davis JM. Carbohydrates, branched-chain amino acids, and endurance: the central fatigue hypothesis. Int J Sport Nutr 1995; 5: S29 38PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Blomstrand E, Hassmen P, Newsholme EA. Effect of branched chain amino acid supplementation on mental performance. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 1991; 143: 225–6PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Bailey SP, Davis JM, Ahlborn EN. Neuroendocrine and substrate responses to altered brain 5-HT activity during prolonged exercise to fatigue. J Appl Physiol 1993; 74 (6): 3006–12PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Davis JM, Bailey SP, Woods JA, et al. Effects of carbohydrate feedings on plasma free tryptophan and branched-chain amino acids during prolonged cycling. Eur J Appl Physiol 1992; 65: 513–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Davis JM, Alderson NL, Welsh RS. Serotonin and central nervous system fatigue: nutritional considerations. Am J Clin Nutr: 2000; 72 (2 Suppl.): 5735–8SGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Burke LM. Branched-chain notion acids (BCAAs) and athletic performance. Int Sports Med J 2001; 2 (3): 1–7Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Calders P, Matthys D, Derave W, et al. Effect of branched-chain notion acids (BCAA), glucose, and glucose plus BCAA on endurance performance in rats. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999; 31 (4): 583–7PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Shuder HE, Hellman W, Platen P, et al. Influence of paroxetine, branched-chain notion acids and tyrosine on neuroendocrine system responses and fatigue in humans. Horm Metab Res 1998; 30: 188–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Davis JM, Welsh RS, De Volve KL, et al. Effects of branched-chain notion acids and carbohydrate on fatigue during intermittent, high-intensity running. Int J Sports Med 1999; 20: 309–14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Blomstrand E, Andersson S, Hassmen P, et al. Effect of branched-chain amino acid and carbohydrate supplementation on the exercise-induced change in plasma and narscle concentration of notion acids in human subjects. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 1995; 153: 87–96PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Blomstrand E, Hassmen P, Eldblom B, et al. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain notion acids on perceived exertion during exercise. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 1997; 159: 41–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Shuder HE, Feranti A, Gotzmann A, et al. Effect of carbohydrates and caffeine on plasma notion acids, neuroendocrine responses and performance in tennis. Nutr Neurosci 1999; 1: 419–26Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Huffman DM, Altena TS, Mawhinney TP, et al. Effect of n-3 fatty acids on free hyptophan and exercise fatigue. Eur J Appl Physiol 2004; 92: 58491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Mar YK, Chung SH, Lee JS, et al. Red ginseng inhibits exercise induced increase in 5-hydroxyhyptamine synthesis and tryptophan hydroxylase expression in dorsal raphe of rats. J Pharmacol Sci 2003; 93: 218–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Banister EW, Cameron BJC. Exercise-induced hyperamonemia: peripheral and central effects. Int J Sports Med 1990; 11: 512942Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Blomstrand E, Hassmen P, Eldblom B, et al. Administration of branched-chain notion acids during sustained exercise: effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some notion acids. Eur J Appl Physiol 1991; 63: 83–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Cheuvront SN, Carter R, Kelka MA, et al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and human performance when hypohydrated in the heat. J Appl Physiol 2004; 97: 1275–82PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Masden K, MacLean DA, Mens B, et al. Effects of glucose, glucose plus branched-chain amino acids, or placebo on bike performance over 100 km. J Appl Physiol 1996; 81 (6): 2644–50Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Van Hall G, Raaymakers JSH, Saris WHM, et al. Ingestion of branched-chain notion acids and hyptophan during sustained exercise in man: failure to affect performance. J Physiol 1995; 486 (Pt 3): 789–94PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Varnier M, Sane P, Marlines D, et al. Effect of infusing branched-chain amino acid during incremental exercise with reduced muscle glycogen content. Eur J Appl Physiol 1994; 69:26–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Burke ER, Elkblom B. Influence of fluid ingestion and dehydration on precision and endurance performance in tennis. Athl Train 1982; 17: 275–7Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Mitchell JB, Cole KJ, Grandjean PW, et al. The effect of a carbohydrate beverage on tennis performance and fluid balance during prolonged tennis play. J Appl Sport Sci Res 1992; 6 (2): 96–102Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ferauri A, Weber K, Shuder HE. Metabolic and ergogenic effects of carbohydrate and caffeine beverages in tennis. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1997; 37: 258–66Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Magal M, Webster MJ, Sishunk LE, et al. Comparison of glycerol and water hydration regimens on tennis-related performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003; 35 (1): 150–6PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Hawley JA, Schabort EJ, Noakes TD, et al. Carbohydrate-loading and exercise performance: an update. Sports Med 1997; 24 (2): 73–81PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Ferauri A, Pluim BM, Busch T, et al. Blood glucose responses and incidence of hypoglycaemia in elite tennis under practice and tournament conditions. J Sci Med Sport 2003; 6 (1): 28–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Graydon J, Taylor S, South M. The effect of carbohydrate ingestion on shot accuracy during a conditioned squash match. In: Lees A, Maynard I, Hughes M, et al., editors. Science and racket sports. 2nd ed. London: E&FN Spon, 1998: 68–74Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hemoert MK, et al. Muscle glycogen utilisation during prolonged strenuous exercise when fed carbohydrate. J Appl Physiol 1986; 61 (1): 165–72PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Coggan AR, Coyle EF. Reversal of fatigue during prolonged exercise by carbohydrate infusion and ingestion. J Appl Physiol 1987; 63 (6): 2388–95PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Ostojic SM, Mazic S. Effects of a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink on specific soccer tests and performance. J Sports Sci Med 2002; 2: 47–53Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Burke LM, Hawley JA, Schabort EJ, et al. Carbohydrate loading failed to improve 100-km cycling performance in a placebo-controlled trial. J Appl Physiol 2000; 88: 1284–90PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Kovacs MS. Carbohydrate intake and tennis are there benefits? Br J Sports Med 2006; 40: e13PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Wilmore JH, Costill DL. Physiology of sport and exercise. 2nd ed. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1999Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Sawka MN. Physiological consequences of hypohydration: exercise performance and thermoregulation. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1992; 24 (6): 657–70PubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Devlin LH, Frasier SF, Barar NS, et al. Moderate levels of hypohydration impairs bowling accuracy but not velocity in skilled cricket players. J Sci Med Sport 2001; 4 (2): 179–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Sawka MN, Coyle EF. Influence of body water and blood volume on thermoregulation and exercise performance in the heat. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 1999; 27: 167–218PubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Gopinathan PM, Pichan G, Sharma VM. Role of dehydration in heat stress-induced variations in mental performance. Arch Environ Health 1988; 43 (1): 15–7PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Wilkins R. Proper hydration: the key ingredient to your athletic success. Strength Cond Coach 2003; 11 (1): 7–10Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Binkley HM, Beckett J, Casa DJ. et al. National athletic trainers’ association position statement: exertional heat illnesses. J Athl Train 2002; 37 (3): 329–43PubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Burke LM, Hawley JA. Fluid balance in team sports: guidelines for optimal practices. Sports Med 1997; 24 (1): 38–54PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Bergeron MF. Heat cramps: fluid and electrolyte challenges during tennis in the heat. J Sci Med Sport 2003; 6 (1): 19-27PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    McCarthy PR, Thorpe RD, Williams C. Body fluid loss during competitive tennis match-play. In: Lees A, Maynard I, Hughes M, et al., editors. Science and racket sports. 2nd ed. London: E&FN Spon, 1998: 52–5Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Therminarias A, Dansou P, Chupaz M-F, et al. Cramps, heat stroke and abnormal biological responses during a strenuous tennis match. In: Reilly T, Hughes M, Lees A, editors. Science and racket sports. 1st ed. London: E&FN Spon, 1994: 28–31Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Martin DT, Hahn AG, Ryan RE, et al. Why did members of the 1996 Olympic team pre-cool before competition? Research behind the ‘Aussie ice jacket’. National Coaching and Officiating Conference; 1996 Nov 30–Dec 3; Brisbane; 847Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Bergeron MF, Armstrong LE, Maresh CM. Fluid and electrolyte losses during tennis in the heat. Clin Sports Med 1995; 14 (1): 23–32PubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Kay D, Marino FE. Fluid ingestion and exercise hyperthermia: implications for performance, thermoregulation, metabolism and the development of fatigue. J Sports Sci 2000; 18 (2): 7182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Bolster DR, Trappe SW, Short KR, et al. Effects of precooling on thermoregulation during subsequent exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999; 31 (2): 251–7PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Morris JG, Nevill ME, Thompson D, et al. The influence of a 6.5% carbohydrate-electrolyte solution on performance of prolonged intermittent high-intensity running at 30°C. J Sports Sci 2003; 21: 371–81PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. 75.
    Toy BJ. The incidence of hyponatremia in prolonged exercise activity. J Add Train 1992; 27 (2): 116–8Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Nelson PB, Robinson AG, Kapoor W, et al. Hyponatremia in a marathoner. Phys Sports med 1988; 16 (10): 78–87Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Bergeron MJ, Maresh CM, Armstrong LE, et al. Fluid-electrolyte balance associated with tennis match play in a hot environment. But J Sport Nutr 1995; 5: 180–93Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Coyle EF, Montain SJ. Carbohydrate and fluid ingestion during exercise: are there trade-offs? Med Sci Sports Exerc 1992; 24 (6): 671–8PubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. 79.
    International Tennis Federation. Pro circuits rulebook 2004. London: International Tennis Federation, 2004Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Booth J, Marino F, Ward JJ. Improved running performance in hot humid conditions following whole body precooling. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997; 29 (6): 943–9PubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. 81.
    Morris JG, Nevill ME, Lakonry HKA, et al. Effect of a hot environment on performance of prolonged, intermittent, high-intensity shuttle running. J Sports Sci 1998; 16 (7): 677–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. 82.
    Sawka MN, Latzka WA, Montain SL et al. Physiologic tolerance to uncompensable heat: intermittent exercise, field vs laboratory. Med Sci Sport Exerc 2001; 33 (3): 42230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. 83.
    Kraning KK, Gonzalez RR. Physiological consequences of intermittent exercise during compensable and uncompensable heat stress. J Appl Physiol 1991; 71 (6): 2138–45Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Falk B, Radom-Isaac S, Hoffmann JR, et al. The effect of heat exposure on performance of and recovery from high-intensity, intermittent exercise. But J Sports Med 1998; 19: 1–6Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Febbraio MA, Snow RJ, Stathis CG, et al. Effect of heat stress on muscle energy metabolism during exercise. J Appl Physiol 1994; 77 (6): 2827–31PubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. 86.
    Nielsen B, Nybo L. Cerebral changes during exercise in the heat. Sports Med 2003; 33 (1): 1–11PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. 87.
    Smekal G, Von Duvillard SP, Rihacek C, et al. A physiological profile of tennis match play. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001; 33 (6): 999–1005PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. 88.
    Novas AMP, Rowbottom DG, Jenkins DG. A practical method of estimating energy expenditure during tennis play. J Sci Med Sport 2003; 6 (1): 40–50PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. 89.
    Collinson L, Hughes M. Surface effect on the strategy of elite female tennis players. J Sport Sci 2003; 21 (4): 266–7Google Scholar
  90. 90.
    Hughes M, Clarke S. Surface effect on elite tennis strategy. In: Reilly T, Hughes M, Lees A, editors. Science and racket sports. 1st ed. London: E&FN Sport, 1994: 272–7Google Scholar
  91. 91.
    O’Donoghue P, Liddle D. A match analysis of elite tennis strategy for ladies’ singles on clay and grass surfaces. In: Lees A, Maynard I, Hughes M, et al., editors. Science and racket sports. 2nd ed. London: E&FN Sport, 1998: 247–53Google Scholar
  92. 92.
    O’Donoghue P, Liddle D. A notational analysis of time factors of elite men’s and ladies’ single tennis on clay and grass surfaces. In: Lees A, Maynard I, Hughes M, et al., editors. Science and racket sports. 2nd ed. London: E&FN Sport, 1998: 241–6Google Scholar
  93. 93.
    Williams AM, Ward P, Knowles JM, et al. Anticipation stallion real-world task measurement, training, and transfer in tennis. J Exp Psychol Appl 2002; 8 (4): 259–70PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. 94.
    Singer RN, Cauraugh JH, Chen D, et al. Visual search, anticipation, and reactive comparisons between highly-skilled and beginning tennis players. J Appl Sport Psych 1996; 8: 9–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. 95.
    Rowe RM, McKenna FP. Skilled anticipation in real-world tasks: measurement of attentional demands in the domain of tennis. J Exp Psychol Appl 2001; 7 (1): 60–7PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. 96.
    Goulet C, Bard C, Fleury M. Expertise differences in preparing to return a tennis serve: a visual information processing approach. J Sport Exerc Psychol 1989; 11: 382–98Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel J. Hornery
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Damian Farrow
    • 1
  • Iñigo Mujika
    • 4
    • 5
  • Warren Young
    • 2
  1. 1.Australian Institute of SportCanberra, Australian Capital TerritoryAustralia
  2. 2.University of BallaratBallaratAustralia
  3. 3.Tennis AustraliaMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Research and DevelopmentAthletic Club of BilbaoBilbaoBasque Country, Spain
  5. 5.Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and OdontologyUniversity of The Basque CountryBilbaoSpain

Personalised recommendations